Pilot Perception: Men at Work

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our new feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Men at Work, TBS, Thursdays at 10/9c
(Note: The network aired the pilot and a second episode back to back last night, so we’re considering them both here.)

The Pedigree: The show was created by actor Breckin Meyer (Franklin & Bash), who also seems to be writing. The rest of the writers’ room is relatively new to this kind of show, with the exception of Lon Zimmer, who worked on Happy Endings and Better with You. The other big name involved (as EP) is Jamie Tarses (Happy Endings, Mr. Sunshine, HawthoRNe, Mad Love, My Boys). Directors include Mark Cendrowski (The Big Bang Theory).

The Cast & How You Know Them: The main quartet is Danny Masterson (That 70s Show), James Lesure (Mr. Sunshine, Las Vegas), Michael Cassidy (Privileged, Smallville, Hidden Palms, The O.C.), and Adam Busch (Point Pleasant, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The pilot has a cameo (alas, only a cameo) from Amy Smart (Shameless, Felicity); so far it looks like the only female regular (or is she recurring?) is Meredith Hagner, who I liked quite a lot in both Lights Out and Royal Pains.

The Premise: Four friends work together at a magazine. That’s pretty much it. In the pilot, one character is dealing with a break-up, but based on the second episode, it doesn’t seem that that will be much of an ongoing plotline. Another of the guys is dating the boss’s daughter, and it does seem that that will be a continued source of conflict and/or jokes.

A Taste:

What Works: Not much, honestly. There’s a kernel of an interesting show somewhere in the magazine stuff; the pilot had a sub-sub-plot about one of the guys trying to get a decent interview out of a teen vampire movie heartthrob (played by Julian Morris of Pretty Little Liars), and that was the one element that made me think “Huh, this has potential,” in a “James Van Der Beek playing himself” (or even “Nick Jonas on Mr. Sunshine“) kind of way. But they didn’t really go there. And there was an Avett Brothers music cue at the end of the pilot that made me want to think someone with taste was involved somehow.

What Doesn’t: All the interpersonal stuff and most of the magazine/office stuff relies almost entirely on sitcom cliches, sexist jokes, ethnic stereotypes, and other mildly offensive material. The fact that the whole thing feels lazy and phoned-in is what keeps anything from being outrageously offensive, I guess. I was hoping the cast, most of whom I’ve liked in other things, would somehow manage to sell the material, but they didn’t seem to be trying all that hard; there just wasn’t much there there. And in these two episodes, the show failed both at being funny and at making me care about any of the characters, and a sitcom really needs to do at least one of those two things (preferably both!) in order to grab me.

Our Favorite Line: Magazine owner/boss to staff: “Oh good, I was afraid the break room wasn’t getting enough use. Crisis averted.”

Other Items of Note: They have some interesting guest stars coming up, including Masterson’s brother Christopher (Malcolm in the Middle) and Josh Hopkins, whose show Cougar Town is moving to TBS soon.

You Might Like This if you like traditional sitcoms about groups of guy friends, I guess. That’s not my thing, so I’m having trouble even coming up with stuff to compare it to. Traffic Light, maybe? Actually, it sort of struck me as a watered down version of the guys from the early seasons of How I Met Your Mother, with Robin and Lily deleted.

If You’re Interested: Catch up on these two episodes on TBS’s site (though you have to log in with your cable account to see full episodes) or catch reruns on May 28 at 1:05am or May 31 at midnight. Then set your DVR for next Thursday at 10.

(Photo courtesy of TBS.)

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