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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Men at Work is "Plan B" for me

The latest episode of TBS's Men at Work is "Plan B." Neal (Adam Busch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) hooks Milo (Danny Masterson, That '70s Show) up with his hot friend, Hannah (Laura Prepon, Are You There Chelsea?). Milo likes Hannah, but as Neal keeps intruding on their dates, Milo begins to wonder if Hannah is Neal's Plan B, should things not work out with his current girlfriend, Amy (Meredith Hagner, As the World Turns). Milo is right, and Hannah, thrilled to see Neal's interest, makes a play for him, leaving Neal with a tough decision to make.

This is a story that has been done before about a bazillion times. Neal doesn't realize how good he has it in his relationship until he sees another choice. Then he thinks about what Amy means to him, and makes the right decision. Milo is merely present as a way to bring Hannah in, without any good character development for himself. Hannah, while played delightfully by a talented actress, is also simply a catalyst for Neal's story. This entire plot is Neal's. Busch handles it well, but it's nearly impossible to do a fresh take on such a been-done story, and Men at Work fails to make it seem current.

The B plot of "Plan B" is no better. Tyler (Michael Cassidy, Privileged) and Gibbs (James Lesure, Las Vegas) pretend to be a gay couple to join an expensive gym that offers two-for-one membership deals. This is merely an excuse by the writers to make these too masculine men act gay, and try to mine humor in that. Men at Work deserves a little bit of credit for not playing too much into stereotypes or getting crass in the story. But it's incredibly predictable, right up to when they figure out that the two-for-one deal did not specify that they had to be a couple to use it.

I originally watched the pilot of Men at Work, and decided it would not be a series worth my time reviewing. It seems like something completely unoriginal, just mixing up the ingredients of previous sitcoms in a slightly new way. The characters tended to be broad and unfocused, and the stories trite. The cast is decent, but not amazing enough to warrant regular viewings for a show that already feels like every week's episode is a reruns, even though they aren't.

"Plan B" doesn't do a lot to dispel those notions. It's better than the first episode, for sure, but there's still a lingering sense of nothing special. It's a diverting way to spend a half hour, but no jokes really stuck out as being memorable, and I am unlikely to dwell on any scenes after I've finished watching. It's not bad, per se, it's just not great, either. In today's world of a million programming choices, with enough gems to keep anyone busy, it's not worth it to continuing watching Men at Work.

Part of the problem is that other networks have recently tried a similar formula, about buddies at this stage of their lives, and done better. Man Up springs to mind, in spite of its cancellation. This comparison hurts any impression Men at Work seeks to make.

Most of these actors have been a part of better shows. One hopes they will be again soon. And Men at Work definitely makes me long for the arrival of Cougar Town so TBS can have a good comedy again, something it has not seen since ending My Boys.

If you choose to watch, Men at Work airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on TBS.

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