Four guys in khaki pants lounge on expensive living room furniture telling bad jokes and sharing more effective ways to pick up women. Add the English bulldog mascot, Knuckles, and this might just be another Superbowl party that ran out of beer. That is, until the prancing lingerie models appear as a warm-up for advice on how to buy the best stereo or play the stock market. And now you have the FX cable channels "The X-Show," a late-night TV experience that packs all the everyman savvy Details or GQ ever dreamed of inspiring for men only, of course.
The whole FX network leans toward male-oriented programming with reruns of "Beverly Hills 90210," "The X-Files" and "M*A*S*H" mixed in with movies that feature attractive women, such as Crimes of Passion and Black Widow. Then theres the cinematic insanity of shows like "Fast Food Film," a quirky film review slot that recently featured the B-grade classic Teenage Catgirls in Heat.
But on "The X-Show," even gender exclusiveness has its limits, as it claims to be for men and the women who put up with them, like girlfriends and wives. It is important to distinguish here between real women and the ones who are allowed to be a physical part of this half-realized world of male fantasy, where goddesses wear miniskirts and laugh at jokes about their own bustlines and the rest of the female population gets a balcony seat.
For women, watching "The X-Show" is an exercise in eye rolling, but also like being a fly on the wall at an all-guy poker game. The virtual spandex-o-rama aerobics video runs soundless on a TV screen in the background, and the hosts get to use terminology such as "young single buck." Unfortunately, the excitement of being privy to these male bonding rituals is lost in the memory-jarring reality of it. Hey, I already learned these clubhouse secrets by watching bachelor party scenes from bad 1980s movies.
Of course, that was back when a standoff between a trashy stripper and a pouty fiancée in a movie still seemed scandalous or at least funny. These days we, the sensationally challenged, need things turned up a notch to hiding the body of a murdered prostitute before picking up the tuxedos. Sure, its over the top but, at least in the case of Very Bad Things, the men are just as neurotic as the women are.
Even at its peaks of goofy macho mania, "X-Show" fare is a well-monitored IV drip of testosterone next to the show-it-to-me-baby gush of Howard Sterns parade of porn stars. But still, its diversions from male stereotypes are few and far between. Unless a game of "Guess My Plastic Surgery" where three scantily clad women line up to show off a lip implant, breast implants and a facelift can be interpreted as something of medical interest.
Despite their boys-just-wanna-have-fun delusions, hosts of "The X-Show" are funny, especially for the inflated compensation they seek for being ordinary men. And somewhere there is the unspoken idea that they understand this as well as, if not better than, anyone. Take for instance the myth that women only play basketball in order to be seen jumping up and down in tank tops, or that anyone, even supermodel Cindy Margolis, is really flattered to be known as the most downloaded woman on the Internet.
Mark DeCarlo, one of the shows three bachelors, carries over his dry, self-aware sense of humor from a stint as host of a dating game show called "Studs." TV actor John Webber is the married guy on the "X" team. He offers insights from the marital battlefront, armchair film criticism, extra drool for the exotic dancers and unforgettable flash-card lessons on how to fake it with art styles. By the way, if a painting features a man in tights, its Baroque.
Of course, "The X-Show" deserves a few slams for underachievement, promoting itself with bouncing sports bra close-ups and billboards that read, "What is it about two girls kissing?" It resorts to some tired tactics, such as a "Candid Camera" skit where an attractive blonde woman is sent out on a city street to see how many men she can get to follow her.
And the humor is often as lazy as the picture of the average cliché-riddled American guy it portrays especially the couch potato who imagines hes a Renaissance man. But abandoning political correctness without turning ones worldview into a John Waters film can be fun without real danger. A woman might turn down a date with one of these guys, but at least she wouldnt be afraid of sharing an elevator.
Underneath all the testosterone dreams and silicone jokes, "The X-Show" is also about poking fun at men, sex and the media. They just get the satisfaction of delivering their own punch lines and basking in that nebulous zone of post-chauvinism, where two consenting sexes pretend for a moment that its a mans world, nodding all the while to the glaring fact that it isnt.
And Gil-Scott Heron said the revolution wouldnt be televised.