There’s mounting evidence that new ABC Entertainment boss Paul Lee is trying to “man up” the Alphabet network — or at least its comedy development. The latest proof: Vulture has learned that Lee has just closed a deal with Jay Mohr (fresh off playing a beleaguered and clueless dad on Gary Unmarried) for a small-screen adaptation of No Wonder My Parents Drank, the comic’s autobiographical look at fatherhood released earlier this year. Former Just Shoot Me scribe Marsh McCall will join Mohr in writing the pilot, which is being developed as a starring vehicle for Mohr and will take another decidedly guy-centric look at raising kids. His potential series joins a growing list of manly men projects Lee has pushed forward in recent weeks.
During the previous administration headed by Steve McPherson — ironically, a former fraternity member — ABC found much success with a schedule containing just slightly less estrogen than Lifetime: Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Cougar Town, among others, all put women front and center. Even its reality shows — The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars — unabashedly embraced their inner estrogen. But since taking over this summer, Lee (a soft-spoken Brit) has moved quickly to balance things out: While the network’s drama development is still pretty female-focused, ABC’s early comedy slate seems to have slew of comedies with a very strong male POV.
There’s Understanding Today’s Men, which focuses on men in various stages of relationships. Good Guys, Bad Husbands tries to mine laughs from dudes who are masters of the workplace but stink at being married. Damon Wayans, who starred in ABC’s My Wife and Kids, is mulling a return to Sitcomsville with a show that casts him as a Bill Cosby–like TV dad who’s actually a putz to his real family. And, in what could be the centerpiece of Lee’s masculinization campaign, 30 Rock writer Jack Burditt is behind the Zeitgeist-ready half-hour Man Up, which revolves around an everyday hombre trying to stay manly while swimming in a sea of women. There’s been online speculation that Tim Allen is considering attaching himself to the show.
Lee’s efforts to grow a pair (or more) of man-friendly comedies could be risky. ABC’s had much success targeting women, who, on average, watch more TV than guys. And while CBS and Fox have done well with cojones comedies (from Two and a Half Men and $#*! My Dad Says to virtually all of Fox’s Sunday toons), those networks have prime-time football franchises in which to hype their alpha males, while ABC doesn’t. That said, the multigenerational and multi-gender success of Modern Family shows that guys will come to ABC for laughs — though, to be safe, Lee might want to see if Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen have sisters interested in a TV career.