Manly Pursuits

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In trying to build a following for its unenviable, unsympathetic--or just pathetic--but self-aware men, Mind is daring. It can be bitingly funny. But it's hardly a news flash to say men fixate on sex, not necessarily with their wives. The "it's not TV, it's HBO" raciness masks a core of sitcom truisms, right down to the lumpy male lead married to a gorgeous blond. (It can also be hard to distinguish Micky's implausible fantasies from implausible actual events, as when his assistant and her--of course--hot roommate do an erotic dance for him at her apartment.) Take away the masturbation scenes and nudity, and you've got one part In the Company of Men, three parts Mad About You.

Maybe the best way to convince people that you're giving away the male gender's dark secrets is to confirm provocatively what they already believe. (See also The Other Half's blowing the lid off why men don't look at maps.) But at best, these series show TV arriving at a more nuanced understanding of manhood. In the dreaded '70s "sensitive man" era, feminist guys tended to simply, implausibly, deny what made them different from women. The postfeminist backlash of the '90s gave us the chest-thumping likes of Comedy Central's The Man Show. Today's post-postfeminist TV man isn't perfect. But at least he's trying to strike a balance between being Alan Alda and being The Man Show's Adam Carolla.

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