Hit or Sh**: CBS’s MAN WITH A PLAN

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

man with a plan

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Ah, the family sitcoms of modern day: Each new show brings more to the table in terms of diversity and progressivity. Enter MAN WITH A PLAN, which follows Adam Burns, Andi Burns, and their three kids. Andi’s now ready to get back working after being a housewife for 13 years, leaving Adam to navigate the world his wife had been running all this time.

In contrast to the housewives of long ago, we are now in a new era of working moms and stay-at-home dads. The lines between masculinity and femininity continue to blur the more gender deconstructs in our society. So, what a brilliant idea to bring this great facet of new American domesticity to the small screen in a premise that was openly parodied in another pilot this year. It’s a shame that MAN WITH A PLAN relies heavily on making a joke out of the situation rather than embracing it.

But something doesn’t sit right with this picture, MAN WITH A PLAN is not a sitcom from the modern day. The first thing wrong with MAN WITH A PLAN is its underlying false advertising. Although Adam’s now a stay-at-home dad, he’s a contractor who gets to make his own hours! What a nice loophole that keeps the patriarchy in check while still trying to appear progressive! It really seems like Matt LeBlanc (who is currently the best selling point for this show, to make matters worse) is trying super hard to remain a macho, cool dad who is able to spit one liners out of nowhere. It’s not charming, it’s just annoying.

man with a plan mother

“Hey Guys! Let’s have some fun degrading your mother!”

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Another red flag arises when Adam lowballs his wife when telling his kids that she’s not a doctor. Though Andi’s occupation is never revealed, it’s still messed up to lowball his wife in some weird form of a joke that just seems like power play. Although Andi gets her comeuppance against Adam, it doesn’t really make Adam sit well with viewers. Call him flawed, but he sounds like a real jerk to me for most of the pilot, enough to the point that I don’t want to watch it further.

It makes me feel that the kids honestly deserve a better father. Even though the kids are just alright. Nothing sets them apart except their age, gender, and the fact that the middle brother has a thing for touching himself. Oh, they are tech-obsessed, just in case you forgot what year it is. Though with a show like this, I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting, and that’s not because it’s multi-cam. And for the lack of well-done multi-camera shows, I really wish this could’ve been more. But MAN WITH A PLAN just tends to be another example as to why that facet of scripted sitcom television is slowly reaching its inevitable death.

Throughout the episode, Adam realizes that staying at home isn’t as easy as he believed it was, (in case you never saw that plotline in any other family sitcom). He does give credit to his wife, but he also complains and begs her to come back and help him. Adam even tries to guilt her as well as blame their children’s laziness on her poor parenting. Not to mention, he keeps trying to get her to stay home again because it’s what he wants. Adam consistently places his needs over everyone else’s so much so, that once the couple finally reaches a “compromise” (where Andi continues working and aims to help Adam as much as she can) it doesn’t feel like much justice was done at all.

man with a plan hugs

I agree for once. Andy deserves no hugs.

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So if you think MAN WITH A PLAN’s a fun take on the modern ideas of gender norms and domesticity, you’re wrong. Unfortunately, the writers of MAN WITH A PLAN are too stuck in the world where Matt LeBlanc was last a television star (R.I.P. JOEY 2006) to put in perspective the great collaboration between real parents: Where no one expects something out of one another, and parenting really is a group effort.

Verdict: Sh**

Michelle is a guest contributor for Crossfader Magazine. She self-published a book about fairies when she was eight. It sold two copies.

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