Judge Brett Cullum knows that this is like saying "water behaving wetly."
Dorothy: You really are a yob aren't you Gary?
The title of the show is Men Behaving Badly—oxymoron or forgone conclusion? Please, discuss amongst yourselves after the review. This diatribe includes a look at Men Behaving Badly—Season One and Men Behaving Badly—Season Two, which are available separately or as a two-pack from stores and online vendors. The problem is that the show was retooled after the first season—so one set is far superior to the other.
Facts of the Case
The set-up is pretty simple. Two guys live together in a flat. One is pretty irresponsible (Dermot in Season One, played by Harry Enfield, and Tony in Season Two, played by Neil Morrissey) and the other is a dour realist (Gary, played by Martin Clunes). They are slovenly and single, but one is in a long-term relationship he can't get out of (with Dorothy, played by Caroline Quentin), while the other is blissfully unattached. Enter a pretty yet prissy single woman whom both guys are attracted to (Deborah, played by Leslie Ash) who moves in upstairs. Let the sparks fly! It's sort of like Sex and the City…if Miranda moved in with Carrie and they were both slobby men who liked to drink beer in pubs and cared little about fashion. It's kind of like The Odd Couple but without the prissy one. It's just a showcase for what it's like when two men share an apartment. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Season One contains the following six episodes:
• "The Bet"
• "Alarms and Setbacks"
• "Sex and Violence"
• "My Brilliant Career"
Season Two includes the following episodes:
• "Gary and Tony"
• "Rent Boy"
• "How to Dump Your Girlfriend"
• "Troublesome 12-Inch"
• "Going Nowhere"
• "People Behaving Irritatingly"
Men Behaving Badly—Season One shows the Britcom on its shaky first legs. I felt the episodes were good, but nothing I would jump up and down about and show all my friends. It has dry wit and nice performances, but something feels off. The chemistry between the two roommates is too comfortable, and there's no struggle or comedic drama. Martin Clunes and Harry Enfield are cut from the same comedy cloth, and they're too alike to set off major sparks. I smiled a lot, but seldom laughed—unless it came from Dorothy, who seems to be a fully realized character from the get-go. These first six shows really serve to set up Gary and Dorothy's relationship, which is Season One's strongest offering for fans of the show.
Men Behaving Badly—Season Two saw a cast change when Tony arrives as Gary's new flatmate. He's got long hair, runs a sidewalk record store out of a booth, and likes to play bass guitar. He's sexy in a goofy way, and provides just what the show needed in a new character. The writing also seemed to get tighter, and the bits seemed funnier for all the characters. Suddenly Men Behaving Badly clicked, and it's in Season Two that you begin to see why the show is considered a classic Britcom.
The first two seasons of Men Behaving Badly were broadcast on ITV during 1991 and 1992. The BBC claimed the show in year three, and moved its time slot so the show could become more racy. A British friend of mine who watched the show when it originally aired assures me the shows became, after the time change, wilder and more debauched than what's included in this set of the first two seasons. Men Behaving Badly was adapted from a book written by head writer Simon Nye. Martin Dennis (Coupling) directed the show. Men Behaving Badly became a major hit in the United Kingdom, running for six seasons, and was translated into a US sitcom starring Rob Schneider (The Animal) and Ron Eldard (E.R., Black Hawk Down). The US show also featured Justine Bateman (Satisfaction). It was toned down compared to the British show (much like the US version of Coupling), and only lasted two seasons.
In these sets we get full screen transfers of the show that look fine, but which aren't striking or terribly clear. There really are no digital errors, but the shows seem soft yet serviceable. The stereo mix is fine, and it's always a nice touch to have subtitles for when you miss something due to a heavy accent now and then. The only special feature on either disc are about six minutes of outtakes of botched lines and prop problems. Both seasons are pretty funny when people mess up, and Harry Enfield gets the live studio audience in on it as he makes them shout "wanker" at anyone who flubs. The menus are nicely themed, with appropriately male items such as pizza and beer incorporated into them.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Men Behaving Badly is just not all that outstanding in these first two seasons. I wish the BBC years were on disc so we can see how the show got better and better as it aged. The problem with buying both seasons is that Season Two is better than Season One. Hardcore fans and completists certainly need both, but most average people will be happier with Season Two as their sole purchase or rental. They aren't offering much to entice you with extras either. While the outtakes are certainly very funny, I would have liked to have seen more on how the show was created, and interviews with the cast. It's pretty bare bones, and doesn't seem to offer much more than a chance to own the series from the start.
Fans of the BBC and Britcoms will find a nice solid collection inside Men Behaving Badly—Seasons 1 & 2, and I certainly look forward to seeing more of the show. You get a standard transfer with little in the way of extras, but it's nice to see the show that definitely trumped its poorly-conceived American doppelganger. Martin Clunes and Caroline Quentin as Gary and Dorothy are the real stand-outs here, and it's all worth a look to get a good handle on their relationship. It wouldn't make a great blind buy for fans of Coupling, but people familiar with the show should be satisfied.
Men are always guilty of behaving badly, and this show seems to state the obvious. I'd say Men Behaving Badly—Seasons 1 & 2 is guilty of showing the series at its weakest point, but it's the start of something that gets progressively better. It's a charming Britcom that is quite funny for all its faults. Guilty—of being a guy, I guess.
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