Evolution of the TV Adult Male

Posted: April 3, 2011 in entertainment, humor, show business, writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ever since getting into show business (going to commercial auditions, getting up on stage to do comedy improv work), I’ve been told to brace myself because the only popular roles for men are characters who are idiots and clowns.

The stereotypical dad, personified by people like Elliot Gould, who played Monica and Ross’  socially clueless father on “Friends”, was all I could expect to shoot for.  Grown men were people to be laughed at, not taken seriously.  If you tried to inject any kind of realism into an adult male character, you’d turn viewers off.

I bought it.  I mean the evidence was right there, wasn’t it?  Even some of the fathers on the hit show “Skins” were over-the-top dofuses.  (Doofi?)  Dads who clearly didn’t know how to communicate with their kids.  Men who couldn’t possibly understand women.  Men like Al Bundy on the show “Married with Children” – who preferred to watch TV with one hand down their pants.  They were fodder for righteous and vivacious women, who took to rolling their eyes anytime the household clown had something to say.

It goes on still.  Take a look at any commercial out there where a father or husband is involved.  Generally, his IQ is in the double digits only.  Everyone else is smarter, more socially aware.   Everyone except male adults know that you should ask for directions if you’re lost.  What’s more, this little stereotype has become so popular, real life people still think it’s true.

So it was with joy that I stumbled upon a little show called “Californication”.

I don’t believe David Duchovny purposely set out to destroy the adult male stereotype, because that would have been disingenuous.  The opposite of altruistic.  No, he merely wanted to tell the story of a man who realized a little late that he was in love with his long time girlfriend, Karen.  The character – Hank Moody – has plenty of faults.  He is portrayed as a “lost child” – someone who didn’t quite grow up.   But the man knows himself.  If anything, he appreciates other people – mostly women – far more than he should, to the point where he finds it next to impossible to say “no” to them.  He has a good heart, and it shows.  While other “lost children” go around using women for their own gratification, he paints a solid line, separating himself from them.  “This far, and no farther”.  He refuses to hit on women who’ve said “no”.  If he has a disagreement with them, he won’t allow them to walk home alone.  He’ll make sure the girl gets home safely.   He helps them not because he wants to bed them too.  He helps them because he can’t help himself.

In one scene, he was talking to a woman who had been turfed by her boyfriend after the guy met another woman.  She clearly wasn’t over him, and Hank realized that her self-esteem had taken a blow.  So he tried to counter that as best he could.   To her horror, the ex showed up at the restaurant where she and Hank were having dinner, new girlfriend in tow.  Hank saw an opportunity.  He put his napkin down and walked over to the ex-boyfriend’s table, and went into gay flame mode.  He told him that he was telling all of his sexual partners to checked out for an STD, and that he should do so quickly as well.  The new girlfriend looked at her boyfriend in disbelief.  The boyfriend was speechless, not knowing where to begin.  The whole scene was a thing of beauty.  Here, let me show you:

It’s his love for women that creates conflict with Karen, with whom he’s had a child – a daughter who he loves dearly.  Karen still loves him but recognizes his many faults.  As does his daughter.

As you can probably guess – it’s a show I highly recommend.  And even though it’s probably easy to follow mid-stream, I’d recommend starting off with season #1 and going through the episodes in order.  Word of warning:  I’m not certain there are any boundaries here.  The show is highly sexual.  The lack of boundaries is in part what makes it so hilarious.   Picture Charlie – Hank’s agent – testifying in court on Hank’s behalf as a character witness.  He’s being questioned by Hank’s lawyer, and he blurts out a confession about the time he asked Hank to provide the third wheel in a threesome.  Hank buries his head in his hands, and the lawyer’s jaw drops as she tries to figure out a way to get him to shut the hell up.   Charlie is oblivious…….

You know what?  The written word just isn’t good enough here.  Check the scene out for yourself.   It’s so worth the minute and a half.  Trust me on this.

The popularity of this show – and shows like “Modern Family” – have proven the point.  Grown adult men can be portrayed as characters who are other than stereotypical buffoons.

Even in comedies.

  1. Carrie says:

    Hey, there! Remember me? Nice, new digs by the way!

    I’m so glad you brought this up because this has bugged me for YEARS! As frustrated as I get with the male gender some, er a LOT of the time, it has frustrated me even more that men are portrayed this way on TV. Funny how in the 60s and 70s (and probably earlier), women played the dingbats. I wonder when that all changed. But then there was The Honeymooners. Hmmm . . . At any rate, extremism on both sides really pisses me off.

    And do you ever notice that the schlumpy-looking buffoons are always married to MILFs? I’ll never understand that. If most sitcom dads make wads of cash, I would understand. But we know the reality of this fantasy world ;)


    • wolfshades says:

      Hi Carrie. I’m drawing kind of a blank – although I’m guessing you’re a MySpace friend?

      I think the Honeymooners was an exception back then, since Alice was portrayed much like women in TVland are portrayed today. Maybe the Honeymooners paved the way for the way things are today, since Ralph Kramden was sort of mirrored by Archie Bunker – the ultimate bull-headed stooge.

      Yes, I certainly noticed that TV clowns always seemed to be married to very hot women. Got to have some element there to keep male viewers interested, right? They’re going to become disinterested if the show is *just* about male idiots.

      Which is where Californication breaks all of the rules. There, you have hot intelligent women, and the males are intelligent as well. (Women have told me the men are hot – I have no personal terms of reference though). And the show’s stories are entirely unpredictable, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious. The very last one of this season had me on the edge of my seat because I had NO idea how it would end. And that’s another thing: because the show is so compelling, you end up truly caring about the characters and what happens to them.


      • Carrie says:

        Yes, I am a MySpace and Facebook friend!

        My fella and I watch TV with our friends on Monday nights, so I’m going to suggest Californication until TrueBlood is back on this summer.


        • wolfshades says:

          Well now that I’ve promoted the heck out of it, I really hope you guys enjoy it. Actually I’d be surprised if you didn’t. I think this blog has pointed out all of the necessary caveats so unless you’re a door-to-door religious evangelist, you should be OK. :)


  2. Oh, I’ve heard this show as GREAT. Pesonally, I’m grateful I don’t have ShowTime because I’m a huge Duchovny fan and I will forever love his as Mulder — but, watching that clip makes me want to consider Showtime in my budget real soon.

    As far as parts for men..I never thought about it that way. Good point though! I learned something new.



    • wolfshades says:

      You weren’t aware of this? I’m a little surprised over here. :)

      No need to rush out and get Showtime just yet – if you haven’t seen the show then you’re better off grabbing the first three seasons on DVD first anyway. The fourth season has just ended so it’s not like you can watch it anyway. (It usually starts up about a few months before the next season begins. This one didn’t start until January, so I’m guessing there are 8 months before the next season begins, so a half a year before season 4 reruns begins)

      Duchovny is *definitely* no Mulder in this show. Far from it actually You’ll see. Oh, and he had to dial down his appearance for the clip you just saw. He’s a little wilder normally.

      Great to see you here again, gorgeous! :)


      • Oh, I’m so sorry! But, I didn’t think of it because as a woman of color, I’ve been a little concerned with how we’re portrayed. And, I should probably be a little more clear: I’m Latina. However, the only Latina’s you ever see in Hollywood are white looking like J-Lo or Selma Hayek or Penelope Cruz. Latina women who are “black” are never very well portrayed or play characters that are more for “African-American” women. So, my thought process just never went towards the characterizations of white middle-aged male actors. Actually, I always thought there were many characters portrayed on television that were good for white older men. I can name…a bunch. However, seeing it from your eyes, I was able to see another perspective… does that make sense?

        I probably won’t watch this show anytime soon though — but it is on my list at some point. The idea of sitting through seasons of any show to get “caught up” just seems like too much work (hahahahhaa!). I do love Duchovny though… I do!



        • wolfshades says:

          Carmen – it’s not nearly as onerous as it sounds. I guarantee: the moment you start Season 1, episode 1, you’ll be hooked. Promise! :)

          And me, being a white-looking Mohawk, who resides in the great frozen north, has been oblivious to how Latinas are portrayed. You’re right – the only exposure I’ve seen are the J-Lo types (I kind of fell in love with her in “Out of Sight” though – her best movie ever, I think).

          Anyway, if I were producing a movie I’d hire you in a heartbeat. I’m pretty biased though. :) I mean, what’s not to like? Your credentials are impressive, and frankly – your personality shines through. I think producers really appreciate actors who don’t act as entitled primadonnas. My buddy worked on a movie with Russell Crowe and he had some horror stories to tell, for example.

          Add to that the fact that you’re as hot as all get out and…..well, audiences would certainly come to see your films. I know it.

          It’s a tough world for female actors – I’ve seen that for a while. People are attracted first by looks, and only after that by talent. It’s why Jenn Aniston gets away with starring in “meh” movies, which just so happens to rake in the dough.

          Man, I could talk about this stuff all day.


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