One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
Why, God, why did Matt LeBlanc say yes to this?
For whatever reason, CBS is using its fall 2016 season to hammer in three overly familiar sitcom staples (the aging white man) all featuring sitcom stars who obviously reached their prime some time ago.
Kevin Can Wait has Kevin James on camera complaining about how he doesn’t fit into this modern world anymore, The Great Indoors does the same with Joel McHale albeit sans-Dan Harmon, and Man with a Plan is probably the weakest of the bunch, if only because it seems to have no idea what its own hook is beyond a premise that could easily fit within the constraints of one episode, not an entire series.
LeBlanc as a leading man has clearly been a tough sell since his time with Friends ended over a decade ago, and it definitely doesn’t help that fellow co-star Matthew Perry has practically made a brand out of non-starter sitcoms. With the exception of Courtney Cox, the televised prospects of the once ubiquitous Central Perk patrons have led right to LeBlanc making a play for his own version of Last Man Standing, even sharing quite the similar set up.
As a contractor, Adam Burns has enough time now to go home early and be a stay-at-home dad (not the whole day, of course, just before and after school), solely because his wife, played by post-Yes, Dear Liza Snyder, wants to go back to work after raising their three kids. Adam seems fine with the idea at first, as it’s agreed upon offscreen between the parents before the pilot opens, because he’s used to spending very little time with his kids at all. He doesn’t just fancy himself the “fun dad,” as much as he calls it “Daddy Fun Time” in the most banal way possible.
As you can imagine, Adam discovers that taking care of children is actually (who’d have thought) difficult! Though most of the problems he encounters with the kids are a weird mix between their GenZ internet obsession and entitlement that Adam is clearly taken aback by as an apparently tough-as-nails hard worker, take the show’s word for it. But Man With a Plan has to give Adam something to do while the kids are in school, so a subplot featuring the other parents volunteering for school programs comes forward, promising to give Adam better comedic counterparts to contend with.
Because make no mistake, Adam’s kids are even less funny than he is, with Snyder being one of the only characters onscreen who actually realizes how to make a bad CBS sitcom at least somewhat funny.
The children seem to have no personality outside of their commitment to stare at the nothingness on their screens, which again, would be serviceable enough for a single episode of comedy, not a set up for a series worth investing precious time in. Simply watching the children’s reactions to their Wi-Fi being taken away is surely how network executives must think their own kids would handle the situation, which is in the most ham-fisted and exaggerated way possible, akin to making baby boomer jokes about 1960s sexism, only to see said baby boomer make a sad clown face in response.
That’s why it’s truly hard to place any real blame on LeBlanc or Snyder for any of this, as it’s obvious from history that these two sitcom veterans are capable of being a spectacle all on their own when given the right script and direction. There’s really no excuse considering the pedigree of creators Jackie and Jeff Filgo, best known for That 70s Show, though they did make the gracious decision to recast Jenna Fischer with Snyder after the test pilot, proving they’ve at least been paying some attention to the chemistry (or lack of it) between characters.
Man with a Plan is not a good show, even by low sitcom standards, and far away from the effective multi-cam format CBS has become used to employing in its massive hit lineup. So it’s quite fitting that once again, the network has put very little effort into kicking off a new show aimed to be their next modest hit alongside the shows they really care about. Their oft strategy to start low despite hiring a promising lead actor, then slowly implement more talent and better writers could be what’s next for a show that’s almost self-aware in its awfulness, evidenced by the inclusion of Kevin Nealon in what could be the series’ first of many saving graces, which should also include a complete rethink of what Man with a Plan needs to be about.
Because as much as I love watching what writers will do when they get their hands on a good challenge, there’s absolutely no way anyone can make much substance out of a guy who parallels drawing blueprints with raising kids he apparently just met for the first time. Oh, and plays Candy Crush years after that was annoying enough.
At the very least, we now know the limits of how unfunny Matt LeBlanc and Liza Snyder are when given zero material to work with.