It's telling that the pilot for The Man Show was originally made for ABC, which said, Thanks, but no thanks, and probably used a pair of rubber gloves to return the tape to its creators. The networks are scrambling to come up with programming that'll get them a young-male demographic and some hip-media ink, but they also have just enough fear of controversy and a few shredded strands of brain ganglia left to know when a program is not good for their images.
Indeed, The Man Show is good for no one. It features hosts Adam Carolla (MTV's Loveline) and Jimmy Kimmel (Win Ben Stein's Money) making dog-do jokes, monkey-flatulence jokes, and Oprah-is-evil jokes, along with footage of women bouncing on a trampoline in every episode. But the worst thing about the series is that the hosts' hearts don't even seem to be in it. Carolla and Kimmel can't, as they say in comedians' circles, commit to this material because they so obviously know it's beneath them.
Still, these guys are wise enough to see that there's a vacuum on TV that's waiting to be filled a need for crude-boy humor to replace the finally fading South Park and Carolla and Kimmel (along with other savvy behind-the-scenes people such as ex-Letterman staffers Hal Gurnee and Daniel Kellison) can't resist trying to cash in on a predictable trend. I don't blame them, but this thing Man Show segments like Kimmel asking women on the street if they want to have sex with him sure ain't the vehicle by which to reap their cynical rewards.
Even more misguided is Happy Hour, a frat-boy romp hosted by brothers Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa that's part variety show, part game show, and all creep-out. Dweezil may have inherited father Frank's adeptness as a guitar player, but all Ahmet got was Dad's snarky arrogance perpetually leering and bellicose, Ahmet is currently the most annoying person on TV, and no, I haven't forgotten chef Emeril Lagasse.
As ''10 very naughty girls'' wiggle in scanty costumes, a celebrity panel performs karaoke and answers trivia questions. The celeb quotient is low, with the likes of Adam West, former Baywatcher Alexandra Paul, and ''entertainment reporter'' Katie Wagner, as well as the occasional athlete, like uncomfortable-looking soccer star Cobi Jones, all trying to grin enthusiastically as Ahmet sings ''Goldfinger.''
Happy Hour encourages guests to get into the frat-house spirit Paul, in a minidress, bent to touch her ankles and told the Zappas she wasn't wearing underwear, which, given their view, they presumably didn't need to be told. In doing so, the show, instead of titillating, sends the viewer into despair at such pandering.
Seeking desperately to damn with faint praise, I'll venture that the best of the new guy's-guy entries is The X Show, a nightly roundelay that's the TV equivalent of such male mags as Maxim and Gear i.e., there are ''service elements'' as well as scantily clad girls involved. Hosts Mark DeCarlo, Derick Alexander, Justin Walker, and John Webber have offered segments on how to shoot better pool, play smarter poker, and understand the scoring system in boxing. Once again, the hosts seem smarter than their material, particularly DeCarlo, whom I always found sharp-witted and likable on that dumb-witted and obnoxious game show Studs.
On The X Show, DeCarlo is willing to do a segment on gifts for women (flowers, jewelry, etc.) that are rated for their effectiveness in seduction on a ''wet panty scale'': he takes a plant-watering spritzer and gives the number of squirts he thinks a gift deserves. Yeee-uuuck.
Meanwhile, back on network TV, it's clear that what all these shows strive for, Craig Kilborn has already achieved on The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn macho smarm, flirty female guests, and monologue jokes about boys who dream about what it would be like to ''ride'' Michelle Pfeiffer's ''beautiful, heart-shaped a .''
Featuring no sidekick and doing most of his own announcing, Kilby is trying something new his is the first narcissistic talk show, in which the guests are irrelevant; all that matters is ''Craiggers'' and his closing benediction (''I'm proud of you'') before we head off to dreamland.
The overriding point if it's not too soon to repeat the word ride in this piece is that all these shows give guys a bad name, reducing dudes to drooling inner idiots with arrogant veneers. Really, we're much better and worse than this. For a portrait of manhood in extremis, you'd do better to turn off your TV and get the new Randy Newman CD, Bad Love. There's a guy who knows how guys think.
Man Show: D
Happy Hour: D-
X Show: C+
Late Late Show: C+