Jonathan Storm: CBS's "Gentleman": Great slot, lame plot

"How to Be a Gentleman" stars David Hornsby (left) as an uptight columnist and Kevin Dillon as an unrefined personal trainer. The supporting cast is strong on comedic talent.
"How to Be a Gentleman" stars David Hornsby (left) as an uptight columnist and Kevin Dillon as an unrefined personal trainer. The supporting cast is strong on comedic talent. (GREG GAYNE / CBS)
Posted: September 29, 2011

'Life is a big jerk," says the big jerk in How to Be a Gentleman. "It punches you in the face over and over again. You gotta fight back, or it will knock you out."

CBS's new Thursday night sitcom needs to start fighting fast. It has a fabulous supporting cast, but the two lead characters have big problems. One, Jason Hornsby, who hilariously played Rickety Cricket on FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is flat. The other, Kevin Dillon, who was less impressive as Johnny Drama on HBO's Entourage, is, well, a big jerk.

Surrounding these lights are three of the funniest comedy actors in television: Dave Foley, of the Canadian comedy group Kids in the Hall; Rhys Darby, of Flight of the Conchords; and Mary Lynn Rajskub, who was a comedian for years before becoming 24's Chloe.

Hornsby is the fussy Andrew Carlson, who writes a column on gentlemanly behavior until the magazine he works for is sold, and he is asked to aim at a different market, "men in their mid- to late-30s who act like they're 15."

Can you see where this is going?

Dillon is the intellectually challenged Bert Lansing, one of those men.

Foley, who was also the boss on News Radio back in the '90s, is Andrew's boss. Rajskub is his snarky sister, and Darby, a New Zealander who played the manager of the Conchords - wiftier, and delightfully so than even they were - is her husband.

In the first episode, gentleman Andrew uses his sister's totally inappropriate birthday gift certificate, a free session at a gym, where he meets up with old classmate, not friend, Bert.

Andrew quickly decides that Bert can teach him how to tone down his game so he'll have more appeal to the boors his magazine is now targeting. Just what TV needs.

The show is lovingly placed at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays between the already popular newcomer Person of Interest and the even more popular veteran Big Bang Theory, so it will have time to find itself.

But it seems to have an awful lot in common with a group of shows that never did, the generic and unfunny fodder that NBC threw up between its popular comedies back when it ruled Thursday nights with Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, and Will and Grace.

What? You don't remember Single Guy, Union Station, Cursed, Inside Schwartz, or Stark Raving Mad? That's my point. Nobody ever accused TV critics of being gentlemanly.


Jonathan Storm:

Television

How to Be

a Gentleman

8:30 p.m. Thursday

on CBS3


Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com.

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