Judge Bill Gibron can scratch and sniff with the best of them.
Our reviews of The Man Show: Season One, Volume One (published August 11th, 2003), The Man Show: Season One, Volume Two (published February 23rd, 2004), The Man Show: Season Three (published June 22nd, 2005), and The Man Show Presents: Girls On Trampolines (published November 10th, 2004) are also available.
Proving that jokes about pocket pool are not necessarily timeless.
As a card-carrying member of the paternal fraternity, this critic believes it's no big surprise that the American male has become wussified over the last few decades, hen-pecked and p-whipped into the sorriest of saggy, super-sensitive shape. Where once men ate beefy buttsteaks as rare as possible, pounding down gallons of gin before snorting on oversized stogies, now they sip White Zinfandel and complain when their grilled tuna confit has too much spice rub on the outside. There used to be a time when gents hung out to talk sports, farmers' daughters, and the quickest way to relieve chapped hips. Now, guys are in touch with their feelings, experiencing phantom PMS, and nurturing their inner chastity to preserve and purify their essences.
Granted, some change was unashamedly necessary. The great WASP male had done a very nice job fudging up the social order, what with his track record on human rights, equal pay, ethnic egalitarianism, and that whole "barefoot and knocked-up" thing. But the borderline metrosexual scenarios showing up at present indicate we've reached a point where, even if Robert Bly were elected President-for-Life, it would take an Iron John the size of the Grand Canyon to flush away all that wayward wimpiness.
Thank your crooked crank, then, for The Man Show. This testosterone-laced throwback to the days when fellas gathered around the water cooler to chew the male chauvinist pig fat and celebrate Bobby Riggs's stand for testicular superiority tries to toss aside political correctness, emotional compassion, and 90% of Miss Manners's Guide to Television Etiquette to pinch off a loaf or two of T&A-based entertainment. Like Jokes for the John adapted for the small screen, with several other juvenile jests tossed in to round out the 'roid rage, this Comedy Central stalwart (cancelled in June 2004 after five seasons) wants to preach to the perverted and teach the far-too-tender about the glories (boobs, poots) and horrors (marriage, children) of being a dude.
Facts of the Case
The primary set-up for an episode of The Man Show is as follows: hosts Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel walk out to the thunderous applause of its beer-swilling audience. After a few introductions, they discuss the main topic of the show (a trip to Snoop Dogg's house, workplace behavior, et cetera). After the sketch is over, there is a break. Juggies (barely dressed dancers with substantial hooters) gyrate and frolic. A filmed bit (fake commercial, or other such nonsense) is shown, and Jimmy and Adam return. They talk some more, announce another comedy riff (Hanukkah with the wrestler Goldberg, the Museum of Annoying Guys, etc) and it's bit time. We again go to a break. After more prepared material, we come to the final skit, usually centering on reading questions from the crowd, or a brief discussion of the chosen tome as part of The Man Show Book Club. The rowdy spectators join their leaders in a "Ziggy-Sokky" salute, followed by beer chugging and a closing montage of girls jumping up and down on trampolines.
There were 26 episodes in Season Two, and instead of trying to list all the material contained therein, only the titles will be given (which, by the way, pretty much indicates what the theme of each installment was):
• More Juggies
• We Donate to Charity
• Teaching Women About the Workplace
• Hef's House
• Juggy Training
• Holiday Show
Though occasionally funny and sometimes outright genius in its satirical bent, The Man Show just doesn't work very well overall. It's hard to pinpoint a rational reason why. It features jokes about farts, monkeys flinging poo, more gags about masturbation than a Cub Scout camp-out, and loads of luscious ladies in various stages of undress. But just like the closing feature—girls jumping on trampolines—what sounds good in theory does not always translate into comic gold when placed into practice. The silicone-chested, tightly-bound beauties who take to the spring mat and leap to the heavens suggest images of jiggling delights. But when actually watched from the security of your home, their motionless mammaries and total lack of lacy underthings renders any supposed sexuality irritating and/or inert. Indeed, a great many aspects of The Man Show are exactly as procedurally paltry.
One of the more inventive elements on the series is the Wheel of Destiny, a spinning circle of scenarios—both good and bad—for gullible audience members to participate in. But instead of making this roulette-style date-with-fate a regular attraction, it is only brought out twice on this box set (which represents the entire second season of the show). And even then, as it is a game of chance, we have to take what we get; dull segments like a dumb dude getting his face licked by a fat transvestite dressed like Cher, or a gent having his wallet whizzed on by Adam. Sure, these repellent razzes are funny in a pseudo-gross-out kind of way. But when we do see a positive product—the baby-oiling of a buxom Juggy—the slick skin dynamics are far too short. One could argue that censorship standards and practices hamper most of the hot stuff. But a better way to look at it is that The Man Show wants to get away with sequences that weren't developed quite enough before they were implemented.
Now, what does work is incredibly hilarious. The little life lessons between Jimmy and his real son Kevin (called "Father and Son" here) are 30- to 45-second snippets of parenting perfection. Just seeing Kimmel and his kid flipping people off is worth the price of admission. Also, The Man Show boy (a rotund tyke named Aaron) gets a chance to practice his sensational "Stuttering" John Melendez act as he confronts people on the street with rude and crude comments (the "Boy Scout / Old Lady" routine is delirious). As part of Episode 16 ("Benny Hill"), Carolla stars in a flawless recreation of that patented Hill fast-motion pantomime (elderly bald man included), and the holiday celebration of the eight nights that make up the Jewish Festival of Lights, featuring the Human Muscle Mass, the Hebrew He-Man, championship wrestler Goldberg, is sensational side-splitting goodness. Whether it's a trip to Porn Star Fantasy Camp (where men sign up for a week's training in the fine arts of the adult industry by the likes of Randy West and Ron Jeremy) or the dead-on impression (by Kimmel) of that great American sportsman and social commentator, basketball legend Karl Malone, The Man Show occasionally comes up with genuinely deranged material. Even some of the stuff that only works part of the time (Carolla's 'When I Am King" rants, the "Movies Men Don't Want to See" segments) still have intermittent high points within their shaky premises.
But more times than not, the humor dies like a wife's interest in sex after marriage. Most of the Juggies junk is just dumb, the gals never really getting to be anything other than eager-beaver eye candy. The entire episode devoted to getting Rosie O'Donnell out of a well makes Howard Stern's regular attacks on the ex-daytime talk show host seem civil. Material lifted outright from other sources (the Man-o-Vations / Beach-o-Vations / Sex-o-vations invention skits are right out of old Late Night with David Letterman shows) is always hit or miss, and every time Kimmel dresses in drag to prove that guys only help out attractive girls, it's the most unfunny misstep in the entire series. Jim looks like a sexually confused serial killer, and no matter how drunk or dumb, no man's going to go out of his way to help out a psycho the size of a linebacker wearing too much lip liner.
It's not that Carolla and Kimmel aren't funny. Indeed, when left to their own improvisational devices, they mine a great many classic ad-libs and comebacks when dealing with dying scripts. But both men also overindulge in repetitive routines. To believe Adam, he never once during the course of a 24-hour day fails to have his hand down his pants, pulling on his personage in self-gratifying fashion. Kimmel is just one dinner party faux pas away from wasting his entire family with a motorized machete, if you buy his constant wife-and-kids complaints. Sure, some of this material is meant to be tongue-in-ass-cheek, to provide a wise window of insight into what men really think about. But when you haven't got that much else to engross an audience with, these tired tirades grow old quickly.
In general, each episode of The Man Show, especially in its second season, provides a couple of decent chuckles. Anytime we visit the Museum of Annoying Guys, one or two of these aggravating arseholes ring a bell of ticklish truth. Porn Stars also provide a couple of kooky concepts, showing that they are good sports as well as unstoppable screwing machines. But then we get to the dominion of midgets (or should it be called Little People Land), the jokes advance neither comedy nor the cause for understanding of the vertically challenged. Or—God forbid!—should Adam and Jimmy discuss politics, the pro-penis platform of the show goes soft and squishy.
Perhaps the best way to describe the problems with The Man Show is to realize that for all its bravado and machismo, this is not a very envelope-pushing idea. Instead of really relishing the old-school standards for men, the humor plays directly into the current New Age concepts of guys being baloney-fart-smelling buffoons, dumb as dirt and swayed by a skirt, who would play with their own feces and be damn proud of it, if only the non-accepting parts of society would support their desire to mess with their mookie stinks. Instead of saying what's right about a man being a man, it excuses dudes for being obsessed with their wieners and tries to tie it all into a small brainpan predicament. If The Man Show had just once jumped out from behind its protective, predictable presentation, and really tried to say something insightful about the state of the male, it would probably be a better social satire. All we get in its place is the same sophomoric humor that had you laughing back in middle school the minute someone told you to pull his finger.
The presentation by Comedy Central and Eagle Vision of this 26-episode box set has a couple of major flaws. First, the installment listing on the inside of the cardboard foldout keep case is completely wrong. Eagle Vision lists five individual offerings on each disc, with the sixth and final platter holding only one show and all the bonus material. The truth is, there are four shows per DVD (meaning there are only 20 total on Discs One through Five) with the final six segments crammed onto Disc Six…along with the aforementioned bonus material. Secondly, most of the extra content appears to be sketches from Man Show episodes. From which episodes are they derived, and why are they not included as part of those installments? Were they cut for a reason? Were they really cut at all? We get no explanation as to what this material represents in the history of the show's run. It would have been nice to give us a small hint. Thankfully, some of the extra skits are very clever. We get more Karl Malone (always a welcome plus) something called "Man Show Miracles" that provides at least one prized moment ("Lost Weight After Marriage") and a Carolla Man on the Street segment where he simply approaches people and asks "What's with the attitude?" The responses are great.
As for the sonic and visual attributes, Eagle Vision has crafted a nice technical presentation for the series. The 1.33:1 full screen image is clear and crisp, with lots of colors and definite detail. Even during the rare night sequences, or on-location footage, the transfer is tight and terrific. As for sound, well, this is standard broadcast Dolby Digital Stereo in all its limited glory. The audience for an average Man Show is louder than snot, so we often hear the massive overmodulation as a group of hopped-up men bellow like angry walruses and ogle scantily clad dancers. Still, Carolla and Kimmel are always understandable, and when music is employed, the channel separation inherent in 2.0 really comes alive. While nothing here is reference quality, The Man Show still looks and sounds pretty good.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Where are the commentaries? And don't say they couldn't be created. Carolla and Kimmel aren't jetting around the globe. Even with his under-performing late night gabfest, Kimmel had to have time to talk a little about his stint as the sex-starved cohost of a basic cable carnality farce. It made him who he is today. Maybe it was all Carolla's fault. Perhaps the double shifts he's pulling over at Denny's kept him from joining in on the alternative narrative track fun. In any case, we should have been given a chance to hear these men discuss the show they starred on for all those seasons. It only seems fair.
Okay, so guys are gross. They pick their teeth—and Lord knows what else—with the edge of a matchbook, and then stare at what they've retrieved with feline fatality fascination. They belch and bottom-burp, never once excusing their offal odiferousness. They partake of porn, and enjoy it when entertainment panders to the lowest common DNA denominator. They love car chases and action films. They avoid the infecting issues revolving around personal hygiene and health care. And when it comes right down to it, they just do not understand the fairer but wiser sex. Women flummox the phlegm out of them, and no amount of self-help hypnosis or silly sensitivity training will get their fat fingers out of their buttcracks. Men are men, and the ladies should just accept that. To constantly try to change them will only result in a bunch of beer bellyaching, a substantial glower around bedtime, and more attempts at creating something like The Man Show.
Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla tried to find the proper venue to allow guys to let their ballsacks down and scrape their Neanderthal knuckles on the ground like good hunter / gatherers. But instead of seeking the truth about the post-millennial male, they toss around too much crap and fail to find real insight into the mealy-mouthed man malady. There's got to be more to owning the Y chromosome than an appreciation of ass gas. Not according to The Man Show, even in its complete second season. For this occasionally funny mediocrity, it's what being an overgrown boy is all about. And that explains a lot.
Comedy Central's The Man Show: The Complete Second Season is found guilty of being a gratuitous, pandering pile of possibilities that never quite gets off the guy ground. It is sentenced to two years of raw meat, double shot boilermakers, and good hard manual labor, until it gets the drift of what it really means to be a man. Eagle Vision is also found guilty of packaging problems and is remanded to the Box Set Division of the Criterion / Blue Underground / Something Weird Video Work Release Program to be retrained on how to present a series of episodes, properly. There they will also learn the value of added content. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
• Bonus Skits and Material from The Man Show
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