|Men Behaving Badly: The Complete Series (1996)
Starring: Rob Schneider, Ron Eldard, Justine Bateman, Julia Campbell, Dina Spybey, Ken Marino, Jenica Bergere
“Like to tie up those programming planners,
Make 'em watch all of that junk 'til their heads explode just like ‘Scanners.’
Leech-covered grub-eatin' fools on ‘Survivor’…
Look, there's James Lipton discussing the oeuvre of Mr. Rob Schneider…”
- “Weird Al” Yankovic, “Couch Potato”
Ah, Rob Schneider: you’re such an easy target, and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Upon leaving “Saturday Night Live” – a departure he made because “it was time to graduate” – Schneider’s first attempt at a film career stalled after roles in such non-classics as “Judge Dredd” and “Down Periscope,” so he retreated back to the womb of NBC, who provided him with a high-profile sitcom gig.
The vehicle was “Men Behaving Badly,” an American retread of a British series about two slovenly bachelors, one with a girlfriend, the other desperately single and constantly on the prowl for sex. Schneider was cast as the latter, with the role of his roommate going to Ron Eldard, then coming off a stint on “E.R.” (as Ray “Shep” Shepard); Eldard’s girlfriend was played by Justine Bateman, who hadn’t had a sitcom role since departing “Family Ties” in 1989. To flesh out the cast, Julia Campbell – probably best remembered as über-bitch Christy Masters in “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” – was added to the cast as Schneider and Eldard’s across-the-hall neighbor.
Although the series actually has quite a few legitimately funny moments and lines, it may not surprise to you to discover that the weakest link in the comedic chain is invariably Schneider. Not that he’s ever been what you’d call a subtle comedian, but in “Men Behaving Badly,” he never misses an opportunity to mug for the camera, over-emote while delivering a line, or go for the dumbest possible slapstick gag. As a result, it’s Eldard who scores most of the laughs, simply by playing someone who reacts approximately like a normal human being; Bateman spends most of the episodes acting rather bored with the sexist antics of her boyfriend and his roommate, but, really, who can blame her? Even the funny stuff generally isn’t laugh-out-loud funny…unless, of course, you’re a big “Deuce Bigalow” fan. The show wasn’t living up to NBC’s ratings expectations, either, resulting in constant retooling; soon, it was out with Julia Campbell and in with Dina Spybey.
When “Men Behaving Badly” returned for its second season, however, it was missing two major cast members; Eldard and Bateman, in a show of remarkably good taste, bailed out of the series after growing increasingly disgruntled with the writers and producers. Suddenly, Schneider was the driving comedic force behind the show. (Go ahead and take a second to shake off the chill that undoubtedly just went down your spine.) The Season Two premiere suggested that Eldard and Bateman’s characters had gotten married, leaving Schneider in need of a new roommate and comedic foil. Enter Ken Marino – and, before long, exit “Men Behaving Badly” from the NBC line-up.
It’s too easy to just write the show off as a pallid imitation of the far better BBC series that inspired it (even if that’s totally the case), but that’s okay, because it’s much more fun to blame Schneider for its failure, anyway. It’s also more accurate, from the evidence seen here; after all, he was the “name” in the cast, so the writers undoubtedly tried to play to his comedic strengths, and Jesus, who wants to watch that?Special Features: I’m dumbfounded that I should have to say this, but with the exception of seven previously-unaired episodes, there are no special features. Not a single one. This might well be the first Shout! Factory release I can say this of; they’re a label who, until now, have unfailingly packed their TV-DVD sets chock full of commentaries and featurettes. As a result, it begs the question: “Wasn’t there anyone involved in this show who actually enjoyed the experience?” (Hell, even the “Stacked” set from Fox had anecdotes from Pamela Anderson’s wardrobe team!) Well, at the very least, they didn’t enjoy it enough to respond to Shout! Factory’s queries; when we asked the label’s senior director of publicity, Jason Allen, what the story was, he seemed legitimately disappointed to concede that “no one from the original cast got back to us at any point in the life of this project.” What, not even Schneider? Huh. I guess they must’ve finally greenlighted “The Benchwarmers in Breaking Training.”