We watch... so you don't have to.

Fall '98: "The Secret Lives of Men"

When you watch The Secret Lives Of Men -- and dear, sweet Jesus, I'm begging you not to -- think of it not just as a bad show or even as a forced march through the worst TV has to offer. Instead, think of it as a textbook example of cognitive dissonance.

You'll sit there, watching the show and listening to the actors talk and, damnit, you'll recognize all the words they're saying. But you'll also hear laughter -- canned laughter, true, but laughter nevertheless. And as you hear the synthetic audience hoot and holler and guffaw at the men on the screen and every blessed word they say, you will find yourself staring helplessly at the screen, struck dumb by the spectacle taking place before you.

"That's odd," you may finally mumble aloud to no one in particular. "I hear people laughing. And yet I hear nothing funny."

Forget all that talk about time slots and lead-ins and network support. Ultimately, this puzzling riddle -- Why are people laughing at those unfunny slobs? -- will have the final say how quickly The Secret Lives Of Men is consigned to the ash heap of history. And if God is a just and merciful deity, Jamie Tarses is signing the death order now even as I type up this sentence.

The show centers around three joyless, despicable men, embittered by divorce. I didn't bother to learn their names. I don't figure the show will be around long enough to make it worth the effort. The three simps spend most of the show hanging out with each other probably because no other human being could stand their company. The first show, in fact, centers around the three jackballs lamenting the fact that their fourth pal doesn't seem to want to hang out with them anymore and musing over why that is.

Gee, I dunno, fellas. Maybe it's because you're loathsome.

That is perhaps the biggest problem with The Secret Lives Of Men -- that, and the 22 minutes of unfunny jokes. If I'm being asked to block out a chunk of my Wednesday evenings to watch three schlubs kvetch, let's at least take a stab at making the characters somewhat slightly likable. That way, you might make people feel like tuning in again next week.

Me, I felt like bathing after the show. But then, I've always been very clean.


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