Women hold the power in ABC's new fall entries
Women are powerful, sexual, conniving creatures -- the dominant species if you will.
Men are mostly simple-minded Neanderthals with even simpler needs. Building sitcoms around their buffoonery apparently is a no-brainer.
At least that's the world according to ABC, as reflected in the network's seven fall series. So consider this an appetizer as your dogged correspondent prepares to head West early next week for the annual summer network TV "press tour." It runs from July 26th all the way through August 8th, with ABC the last network in line. The remaining gaggle of TV critics should be good and cranky by then. So watch out, ABC. Some of us men might actually have the stones to ask a few questions about the gender dynamics at work.
I've viewed all seven of ABC's fall newcomers, four of them dramas and the rest comedies. All of the dramas have pro-active women in the leads. All of the comedies strive for laughs at the expense of their befuddled leading men, although Suburgatory is tame in this respect compared to Last Man Standing and Man Up.
Then there's the midseason comedy Work It, in which it's a drag, drag, drag to be unemployed in not a recession, but a "man-cession." Ergo, the two featured males rejoin the work force disguised as women in hopes of restoring a balance of power. Because as their porcine pal warns, "When the women take over, they'll make eating on a toilet seat illegal."
Well, we certainly wouldn't want that.
Last Man Standing basically is a reincarnation of Home Improvement, with Tim Allen returning to the same form as a primal marketing director of the Outdoor Man sporting good stores. He's otherwise the blustering odd man out in a household populated by his wife and their three daughters, one of whom is the single mother of a baby boy. In the opening scene, Allen's character, Mike Baxter, grandly announces "I'm back!" before brandishing the dinner he's just caught -- a big raw fish.
Here's a guy who also asks "What's Glee?" And during an impromptu webcast rant, "What happened to men?"
In Man Up, three guys who also are best friends struggle to figuratively grow hair on their chests. Suburgatory finds a single dad reflexively retreating from Manhattan to the suburbs after discovering an unopened box of condoms on his 16-year-old daughter's nightstand. He's then surrounded by various women of prey, most of them interested in having him don a condom.
The new dramas include a re-do of Charlie's Angels set in present times and the retro-fitted Pan Am, which time-travels back to 1963. Those were the days when sculpted stewardesses wore mandatory company girdles while sizing up their pilots -- and vice versa. But Pan Am is told from its four leading ladies perspectives, with a closing scene that finds them marching in unison toward another seemingly glamorous flight while a little girl looks on with rapt admiration.
ABC also is offering Once Upon A Time, in which the modern-day daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming battles a still very evil Black Queen. And in Revenge, it's another battle of the fairer sexes, with a young woman returning to the super-rich Hamptons to take on a powerful family and its demonic matriarch. Once upon a time, they framed her beloved father and sent him to an early grave.
ABC's midseason drama contingent includes perhaps the most overt ode to willful women of both means and power. Good Christian Belles, adapted from the novel Good Christian Bitches, is a Dallas-set battle royale between a prodigal former high school "mean girl" and the now well-heeled Baptists whom she once mistreated. It's 20 years later, but they haven't forgotten a thing.
"Onward Christian soldiers," says a belle played by Kristin Chenoweth. It's a battle cry that means she's up to no good. And none of her troops are men, which you've probably already deduced.