Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
Because they are introducing a show about men into the traditionally female-skewing ABC primetime lineup, the producers and performers of Man Up! were called upon to spend much of their time addressing reporters at TCA today about what it means — or doesn’t mean — to be a man in America in 2011. The show stars Christopher Moynihan (also the creator and one of the executive producers), Mather Zickel and Dan Fogler (Tony winner for his role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as three confused guys in their late 30s who would love to grow up if they could only figure out how.
One reporter went so far as to ask that, in a new season that includes many of what the network has been calling “female empowerment” shows, if Man Up! might actually be a show about male emasculation. Fogler thinks not. “[It] reflects what’s going on with people right now in society,” he said. “I feel very close to my character, Kenny — I have a lot of friends out there who will watch … that’s me up there, man … I think they’ll dig it. I don’t think the show is about men being emasculated; [it’s about men] finding themselves.” Moynihan joked that the three, being actors, “are soft guys already … face it, I have a lot of product in my hair.” On a more serious note, he called current thirtysomethings “the generation that has not been made to do anything” and has had the luxury of a volunteer army rather than having to “man up” and face the draft.
Cast member Teri Polo cited Susan Faludi’s book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women as having a lot to say about today’s confusion of gender roles. “Our generation of men aren’t quite sure. Should I mow the lawn, honey? Should I not mow the lawn? What do you want me to do?” she said. Producer Victor Fresco, at age 53 somewhat older than the characters in the show, pointed out that TV men have been searching for what it means to be a man since The Honeymooners. Still, he acknowledged that today’s technological society has changed the concept of work for both men and women. “Life hasn’t gotten easier, it’s just gotten different … something’s gone wrong,” he said.
After the session, Moynihan and Fresco were asked whether the recent cancellation of AMC’s critically acclaimed but low-rated Men of a Certain Age might represent a bad omen for “man” shows. Although he acknowledged that there might be “something in the ether” about examining men’s issues right now, Moynihan thinks his new show stands on different turf. “Those characters are 10 years older — they have more serious problems,” he said.
Fresco pointed out that CBS has had a big success with male-skewing shows, proving that the male audience is in fact out there. “I don’t think there’s any trend,” he said. “[Men of a Certain Age] was a great show; the cancellation was probably a matter of economics.”
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