Matt's Guide to Thursday TV: Pick Parks Over Gentleman
Amy Poehler and Adam Scott
It will be a sad day in TV land if (as Nielsen history suggests) the powerhouse of CBS' The Big Bang Theory helps deliver the abysmal new How to Be a Gentleman a ratings win over NBC's little-show-that-could-do-better Parks and Recreation.
Here's my Fall Preview take on How to Be a Gentleman (CBS, 8:31/7:31c), a misfire that almost makes me miss last year's Bleep My Dad Says, which wasted the same time period: "Felix and Oscar should sue. The overused Odd Couple premise gets one of its more cringeworthy sitcom workouts in the latest assault on the male mystique — caricatured as a squeaky-voiced priss and a bellowing gym-bunny boor. Actually, mankind should sue." To elaborate: David Hornsby plays a metrosexual metropolitan fusspot whose world is rocked when the magazine he writes for changes focus from urbane to youth-pandering drivel. To "man up" (one of the season's dreariest trends, and the title of an equally awful upcoming sitcom on ABC), he turns to a gym trainer who turns out to be a former high-school bully, broadly played by Kevin Dillon in a role the Entourage crew would have mocked. It couldn't be more forgettable, but what's really irksome is the waste of a strong supporting cast, including 24's Mary Lynn Rajskub as Hornsby's sardonic sister and Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby as her mewling husband.
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Meanwhile, an outstanding episode of Parks and Recreation (8:30/7:30cs) taps the Tammy vein of comic gold, with the arrival of Ron Swanson's justifiably feared ex-wife "Tammy One," variously described as a "psychological mastermind" and "hellacious nightmare." Understatements. Patricia Clarkson is a severe scream as this icy menace, wielding an IRS audit as a weapon. (My admiration for this actress grows each time I see her. Having just watched her Emmy-worthy performance in the upcoming Lifetime movie anthology Five, as a woman facing breast cancer with savage wit and a love for life, her range never fails to astound.)
The impact Tammy One has on Ron's personality and trademark look are so alarming, Leslie literally is forced to try to slap some sense into him. Hearing Nick Offerman say, "Leslie, you're a panic" is itself a panic. Can Tammy Two (Megan Mullally) be the "Mothra" to Tammy One's "Godzilla"? Will the original Tammy — a mountain mama seemingly modeled after Margo Martindale's Justified character — be able to rescue Ron in a climactic battle royale? I wish I were as entertained by the ongoing subplot involving Tom's ridiculous new entertainment venture, but for those back in the office trying to bring Ron back into the light, this is about as funny as it gets.
So what else is on? ... Sounds like a formula for disaster on CBS' The Big Bang Theory (8/7c), as Leonard agrees to be Amy's date at a wedding. ... It's flashback time on the CW's The Vampire Diaries (8/7c), as Klaus and Stefan's road trip to Chicago triggers memories of the Roaring (and Biting) '20s, when Stefan was still a Wild Young Vamp. ... Another flashback alert, as the second episode of CBS' intriguing Person of Interest (9/8c) finds Finch (Michael Emerson) reflecting on The Machine's origins. ... In the revolving door of Oceanside Wellness Center, Benjamin Bratt joins ABC's Private Practice (10:02/9:02c) in its fifth season, while Audra McDonald moves on to better things, like a Broadway revival of Porgy & Bess. ... On CBS' The Mentalist (10/9c), Patrick Jane gets a new CBI team to torment, led by Reed Diamond, while he tries to get Lisbon and the rest of the gang back together.
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