You can?t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a show about Manhattan men and their soul-mate hunts. There?s ABC?s Jake in Progress, CBS? Love Monkey and How I Met Your Mother, and now, from the creators of Will & Grace, NBC?s Four Kings — a not unwelcome addition to the genre, but not that essential, either. The Four Kings in question are childhood friends united under one roof when golden boy Ben (Josh Cooke) inherits a fabulous apartment from his late grandmother.
This being TV, each of the guys is a very specific (read: stock) type. Jason (Todd Grinnell) is a marathon-running go-getter; Bobby (Shane McRae) is the cute, dumb Joey stand-in; and Barry (Seth Green) is a diminutive, bitter wiseass, dubbed ”Three Feet of Angry.” Green, who stole all of his scenes in the Austin Powers franchise as Dr. Evil?s son, is an energetic, likable actor (he and Bradley Cooper, star of the now kaput Kitchen Confidential, should team up — those two could play believable friends). Here, Green does what he can — sharp line deliveries, perfect react — samidst sometimes funny, often predictable dialogue. The laugh track is omnipresent, all the more intrusive during an episode set in one of TV?s least believable nightclubs — an incredibly quiet place where extras sit down silently next to the stars, wait for them to say their jokes, and silently walk away again. (At least How I Met?s nightclub episode got a laugh by making the place so loud, each character?s dialogue was subtitled.)
Four Kings has occasional flashes of naturalness, moments when you actually get the feel of four best friends living together — like when they engage in a goofy game called ”Chest!” that involves surprise-punching each other anytime, anyplace, be it in the shower, on the couch, or during a meeting. Kings should aim for more of that looseness. A bunch of man-boys in a box should be, you know, fun.