Don’t you hate it when you hear that an actor you enjoy has a new show, only to discover the premise is totally disappointing? Enter Matt LeBlanc’s new sitcom, Man with a Plan. The reviews are in, you guys, and — to speak colloquially — it ain’t good.
Set to premiere on Monday, Oct. 24 at 8:30/7:30c in the evening, the new addition to CBS’s roster stars LeBlanc as Adam Burns, a contractor who essentially becomes a stay-at-home dad when his wife, Andi, (Liza Snyder) goes back to work. For the first time in their children’s lives, Dad is “in charge.”
And predictably, he appears to comically fumble through it. Why is this predictable? Well, because it relies on tired old gender tropes that we’ve already seen in the sitcom world before — that parenting is a feminine gig, that men lack the inclination, etc.
In short, it rests in the fallacy that parenting comes more naturally to women and therefore being a hands-on dad emasculates a man. There aren’t enough eye-rolls in the world to express the way I feel about CBS shortchanging such great comedic actors with a show built on easy, yet insidious stereotypes.
There are a few major problems inherent with Man with a Plan perpetuating this retro notion. For starters, it does dads a great disservice by implying they are at a natural disadvantage as parents. Newsflash: There are some men out there who are the only parent their kids have, and they rock it. Men can make phenomenal parents. Just like women can. You see where I’m going with this? Parenting shouldn’t be qualified by gender. To suggest they are “less than” or “second-tier” to women as parents is denying them the credit they deserve.
Second, it’s a cop out, y’all. Seriously. My sister and I, who both work from home with two small children, often have this conversation — men have been conditioned to believe that mothers are more adept at parenting, so it’s more “our job” than theirs.
People who buy into this false narrative are the types who believe if someone has to stay home with the kids, it should default to the mother. Or if a child is sick, the mother must be the sole caregiver during said sickness due to her “nurturing” predisposition. You can use this line of thought to justify all kinds of lazy parenting if you’d like.
And then, there’s the ridiculous crux of this entire comedic misadventure, which is that being involved in your children’s lives isn’t manly.
Because here’s the truth: Not only are men just as capable of being amazing parents as women are, but it also doesn’t make them any less “manly” for being phenomenal fathers. In fact, I think most people would probably agree that a father being invested in his kids’ lives makes him more of a man.
Not in Man with a Plan‘s world, though. Rather, the sitcom juxtaposes LeBlanc’s macho, Carhartt-wearing, clueless contractor dad with that of Lowell, an effeminate stay-at-home dad who waxes poetic about kindergarten classes and gets all googly-eyed over Adam’s “alpha-male energy.”
At one point, when Adam makes a crack about beer, Lowell straight-up says, “It’s so nice to connect on a masculine level again.”
So what conclusion are we left to draw other than the fact that being a hands-on dad emasculates a man? This isn’t just an outdated notion; it’s a reckless one. It makes it that much more difficult for families trying to transition into the father staying home or who already have a stay-at-home dad in the picture because it stigmatizes being a present father.
We should be past this thinking by now, right? I imagine the series fancies itself doing women a favor by bringing to light the fact that doing everything a mom does in the life of a child is hard work. Unless Man with a Plan moves beyond its superficial (and, if we’re being honest, sexist) facade in the first few episodes, though, it’s not doing anyone any favors.
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