Anti-Oprah Superstars 

The Man Show heads into its fourth and final season—what have we learned, America?

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There’s no winning an argument over The Man Show (Comedy Central; season premiere Sunday, Aug. 11) … or losing one, or ending one. Those who regard it as misogynistic frat-trash will never come to terms with the fans who see it as over-the-top ironic satire and the literal-minded lugs who are simply content to get babes bouncing on trampolines and roughly a quarter of the jokes.

If only PBS could generate this kind of opinion-provoking programming.

“A lot of critics and narrow-minded people say we treat women like meat on this show,” co-host Jimmy Kimmel says mock-incredulously on The Man Show’s Sunday fourth-season opener. “But, what’s wrong with that? I love meat! I treat meat very well, I have the utmost respect for meat.”

“Yeah, you should see Jimmy around pastrami,” adds partner Adam Carolla. “He’s a perfect gentleman.” (It should be noted that Carolla, like the studio audience, drinks mucho beer during tapings—that line kills after a few cold ones.)

While the feminist playa-hatas can rejoice in the fact that this will be the final season of The Man Show (Kimmel’s off to host his own late-night talk show on ABC in January), there’s still important work to be done—namely, finding a new Juggy Dancer.

The Juggies, a squad of happily uninhibited women who dance in the aisles, “act” in sketches, wrestle one another in various liquid substances and generally wear as little as basic-cable standards will allow, are arguably the real stars of The Man Show. How many would keep tuning in every week for just Kimmel and Carolla’s misshapen mugs and jokes like that pastrami gem? There’s not enough beer in a thousand fridges to sustain a Juggy-free Man Show.

Which is why K&C can get away with spending the entire Sunday episode on Juggy Tryouts & Auditions (“T&A,” in case that one slipped by you), a Los Angeles casting call The Man Show advertised in local papers (including, gasp!, liberal alt-pub L.A. Weekly) to find the perfect new girl. Interestingly, among the hundreds of women who showed up to answer soul-searching questions (“Why do I want to become a Juggy?” explains one entrant. “Because I’ve got big jugs!”), decipher psychological inkblots (“It looks like a vir-gina,” giggles another) and dance and pogo-stick in bikinis for the hosts (“I’m going to need to dump a sack of kitty litter down my shorts to absorb what’s going on down there,” master comic Carolla notes), not one protester. Where were the enlightened feminists who should have been stumping on behalf of these poor, misguided Gyno-Americans? At Oprah?

Maybe The Man Show’s four-year anti-Oprah mission is already complete, with the knuckle-dragging male stereotype finally having arrived at the point where it can be laughed at instead of obscured by gauzy New-Age think and browbeating “sensitivity” training. It’s a destination that Maxim magazine, its many offshoots and imitators (and The Only TV Column That Matters™, occasionally) have moved toward, intentionally or not, for years. Men and women are different—what a concept. Difference breeds comedy, and I know more than a few women who “get” The Man Show and laugh hysterically at it every week, as well as ostensibly straight men who absolutely hate it.

Take away the friction and what do you have? A flatliner like Dick Clark’s daytime “man” show, The Other Side. Not good.

Not that Kimmel and Carolla are visionary geniuses or anything—they got lucky with The Man Show (so very, very lucky, as the Juggy tryouts prove), but this is probably the end of the line for the fame train. Neither has much solo talent discernable to sober people, and anyone counting on Kimmel to be a late-night talk show contender (like desperate ABC stockholders) should watch Sunday: During a “Jug-Off” between the two finalists, one stunningly exotic and whip-smart, the other stunningly blonde and rock-dumb, neither could remember “TV star” Kimmel’s name to save her life.

Not going to tell you who won, but it sure as hell wasn’t Jimbo.

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