Man with a Plan is a bad show. Not a so-bad-it’s-good show. Or a bad-but-hey-some-of-the-performances-are-great show. Just a bad show.
I’ve watched every episode this second season (so you don’t have to!), so let me tell you a little about the plot. Adam (Matt LeBlanc) is a fortysomething contractor with three children. Somewhere around the series premiere, his wife, Andi (Liza Snyder), decided to go back to work. So now Adam has to do more around the house and help out more with the kids. He’s clueless. She’s all-knowing. Men! What are you going to do? Am I right? That, my friends, is the entire set-up.
There’s also Adam’s brother, Don (Kevin Nealon), his dad, Joe (Stacy Keach), and Adam’s co-worker, Lowell (Matt Cook). Let’s talk about some of the recent plots, shall we? In an episode that aired in December, Andi accuses Adam of being sexist because he’s not willing to hire a woman to work as a project manager at his company. Then a gorgeous woman applies for the job and he hires her. But wait, there’s more! Adam discovers his new manager used to be a stripper, so Andi wants her husband to fire her. Women! What are you going to do? Am I right?
In another, Adam learns that the priest he hired to marry he and Andi all those years ago is not actually a priest. Adam discovers that they aren’t really married, so he discusses this with Andi and they go down to city hall to straighten things out. Kidding! He comes up with an elaborate scheme (he is a man with a plan, after all) to dupe his wife into actually marrying him by saying he wants to renew their vows. Yes, these are the kind of completely evolved and thought-provoking plots we are dealing with here.
So I think it’s time to consider the obvious. I believe Matt LeBlanc is trolling us.
Why would he follow the hilarious, brilliant, savvy and poignant Episodes with this? Episodes lived to skewer the industry. In the Emmy-nominated Showtime series, LeBlanc starred as an exaggerated (we hope) version of himself. When Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig), two successful British television producers, bring their show Lyman’s Boys across the pond, it suddenly becomes a dumbed down, play-to-the-lowest-common-denominator comedy called Pucks! starring, that’s right, Matt LeBlanc. The headmaster at an elite boarding school, played by an esteemed British actor, becomes a hockey coach played by Joey from Friends. Episodes was gloriously inside baseball about the entertainment industry, and you always got the feeling that everything—from the head of the network who actually doesn’t watch that much TV to the head of comedy who makes strange faces and finds nothing funny—was rooted in LeBlanc and executive producers David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik’s actual experiences.
Man with a Plan is exactly the kind of show Episodes would have mocked. When Pucks! ends and Matt is looking for a new show, he has a series of meetings—each idea more horrific than the last. One writer pitches him a comedy where he’s just out of prison, trying to stay clean, and his only option is to move in with his mother in her retirement community in Florida. Like most things Episodes did so well, this joke worked because it is totally possible that CBS would green light that show.
In Episodes’ fifth and final season, Sean and Beverly are stuck in a horrible writer’s room after having their new show, The Opposite of Us, taken over by Sean’s old writing partner, Tim Whittick (Bruce Mackinnon). When the Sean and Beverly beg Tim to leave something they wrote in the script, Tim says, “I hope we’re not just keeping things in just because they’re funny. You’re so old school. Comedies don’t have to be funny anymore. Some of the biggest comedies are not remotely funny.”
And I give you this bon mot from this week’s episode of Man with a Plan: “The only way we can both be happy is if we are both unhappy. That’s what marriage is,” Adam tells his wife. Marriage! What are you going to do? Am I right?
Part of my theory is rooted in the fact that I’ve long been a fan of LeBlanc’s. I was even one of the few Friends fans who actually wanted Joey and Rachel to end up together. Episodes was a terrific role for him that played perfectly to his comic sensibilities. I keep thinking that at any moment during the CBS sitcom, LeBlanc is going to turn to the camera, yell “Surprise!” and then the entire cast of Episodes will enter the set and it will be revealed that this was just an elaborate set up for a sixth season of the series—that the series finale was an extravagant ruse. Think about it. Showtime and CBS are both owned by Viacom. Viewers love a good crossover episode. They love a shocking reveal even more. It’s not that far-fetched.
He. Is. Trolling. Us.
Man with a Plan airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS. All episodes of Episodes are available on Showtime Anytime and Netflix. You should totally watch it.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .