All of the new network shows for Fall 2011 have been announced, and one of them in particular seems destined to challenge what it means to be a man. The new comedy, CBS’ How to Be a Gentleman, pairs together an odd couple of men with different values and personalities. David Hornsby is Andrew Carlson, a magazine writer with a men’s etiquette column called—you guessed it—“how to be a gentleman,” and Kevin Dillon plays Bert Lansing, a personal trainer whose impolite, loud, and “manly,” bro.
The premise of the show is that Andrew’s editor tells him to make his column more punchy and sexy, so when Andrew runs into Bert, an old friend from high school, he takes the opportunity to learn from his bad boy ways and endure a little “douchification.” The trailer depicts Andrew as a tight-laced guy who’s the network sitcom archetype for a dude who’s just no fun. At the same time, Bert seems like an obnoxious, vain, and perhaps chauvinistic man, who will probably get all of the laugh-worthy lines.
Despite the stereotyping that’s inherent in the set-up, the series has the potential to work as a smart commentary of how neither extreme is the best approach to masculinity. Rather, a middle ground between professional yet fun, reserved yet candid, is a more effective path of manhood. Or—who knows—maybe I’m giving too much credit to a CBS sitcom to produce an intellectual, progressive message.
How to Be a Gentleman is part of a broader trend next fall, when many of the shows will be incorporating themes of masculinity and more complex looks at men than we’ve seen in the past from network “comedies” like According to Jim from a few years ago. Time magazine ran an article yesterday with a more thorough look at the trend, breaking down the shared theme of men battling emasculation in shows like Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, Man Up and Work It.