Matt LeBlanc is certainly no stranger to multi-camera comedies; after all, the former “Friends” star parlayed his success on that NBC smash into the poorly received “Joey” spinoff, making him a vet at the format.
Unfortunately that experience doesn’t exactly help make his new CBS sitcom “Man With a Plan” any more watchable. The comedy went through early growing pains when the powers that be decided original co-star Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) didn’t share enough chemistry with LeBlanc (Liza Snyder took her place). But chemistry wasn’t the problem with either version of the pilot. Indeed both actresses are fine in the role, as is LeBlanc; it’s the show itself that could use some work.
At the heart of the series is a man who decides to spend more time with his kids and to help out around the house when his wife goes back to work. It’s a situation that many modern parents relying on dual incomes can relate to; if one parent works for themselves (as is the case of LeBlanc’s character) that tends to be the parent who reorganizes their schedule around their kids. In a growing number of instances that happens to be the father, which makes this show a timely fall entry.
Where the pilot runs into problems is when it embraces the stereotypes surrounding such circumstances. Sure, perhaps the mothers out there have a more “natural instinct” when it comes to child rearing and are a bit more organized in running the household. But when viewers meet Adam Burns it’s like he’s never watched the kids for a day in his life. It’s only when wife Andi goes back to work for a day that he realizes the kids are hooked on wifi and hate doing chores, for example. Considering the youngest of the three kids is five or six years old and starting kindergarten, it’s a little surprising those types of revelations would actually catch him off guard after at least a decade of parenting. Has this man really never attended a school function or watched the kids before? Because at the outset that seems to be the case.
Then there are the supporting characters, who come with clichés of their own. There’s the meek, unmanly dad who wants Adam to be his role model because he’s lost his masculinity among a sea of moms. And the “bad mom” who sneaks flasks into school plays and has a “jackass” son, supposedly as a result. Or the teacher who threatens to not teach Adam’s kid how to read unless he steps up to be the classroom mother. And so forth and so on. No one said parenting was easy, but these characters aren’t exactly breaking new ground on the topic.
As the series settles into itself hopefully the writing will switch gears and tackle some of the tough issues that come from trying to balance a busy household like this and the actual stigmas surrounding men who chose to stay home as the main caregiver of the family. There’s plenty of comedy to be mined from that, should the narrative chose to go that way. Until it does, it’s hard to say why this is worth your time.
“Man With a Plan” debuts Oct. 24 on CBS.