Television: Chemistry is everything in 'Men at Work' on TBS
PASADENA, Calif. -- "Men at Work" writer and creator Breckin Meyer is seated on the cold floor of the soundstage on the Sony Studio lot. He stares at the screen of the computer in his lap for a few seconds, feverishly types and then stands and walks over to actress Kelen Coleman to show her what he’s written.
He repeats the process several times. And after each glimpse of the computer, Coleman delivers a different line: "You look like an Archie Comics character." "You look like a man going to a single’s mixer in his condo lobby." "You look like a nerdy mortician."
Each line is captured by the multiple cameras on the set of the TBS comedy "Men at Work."
Director Betsy Thomas finally asks Meyer if he has any lines left and after he assures her he doesn’t, the cast and crew go to lunch. As the creator of the cable series about four best friends -- played by Adam Busch, James Lesure, Danny Masterson and Michael Cassidy -- Meyer is always around to lend a comic hand.
Airing 10 p.m. Wednesdays, the third season of the cable comedy has started and will run 10 episodes.
The key to the show was finding four stars who work together like they have known each other since the third grade, especially when there are only 10 episodes a year (compared to 22-25 for network comedies).
"As an actor, I hate the long time between seasons, but for Breckin and the writers, it’s really good," Cassidy says. "I think Breckin sits around on his other acting jobs thinking about what he can do on this show. He and the writers comes in on the first day of a season with a thousand funny ideas."
And, they are not typical sitcom ideas. At first glance, it seems easy to peg each character, with Lesure playing the smooth photographer Bibbs, Cassidy the optimistic ladies man Tyler, Masterson the realist Milo and Busch the timid Neal. In an effort not to fall into sitcom traps, there’s a lot more to these characters than it seems.
"It’s easy to say Neal’s the smart one and Gibbs is the playboy. But Gibbs actually has more heart than anybody. And Neal seems to say anything no matter who it hurts, even himself," Busch says.
Busch saw a connection between the show’s writers and himself immediately.
"I can’t tell if the writers are writing for me or I am just playing into what they have written. It all just congeals into a unified thing that gets better as it goes along," Busch says. "With each episode, we get closer and closer as friends. That’s why I believe each episode gets better and better."
It doesn’t matter how good a script is if the cast doesn’t have the kind of "Friends"-like chemistry that makes viewers believe. Lesure calls working on "Men at Work" a "blessed" situation.
"The chemistry between all of us happened so fast," Lesure says. "I am fans of all these guys professionally and personally. I feel like we have a great energy together. I want to be part of a project where we are doing good work and while we are doing good work, have a nice work environment. We are fortunate to have it here."
Cassidy and Lesure have a standing tennis match where their rivalry gets intense. Lesure laughs when he finds out Cassidy suggests his co-star should talk about the lousy quality of his tennis skills.
"Men at Work" features four male actors, but the series is not just aimed at a male audience.
"If this was just a show about dudes being dudes, it would be off the air. It would be boring. This show shows that all four characters are super, super vulnerable and pretend not to be. But, all the guys know the other guys weak spots and bomb them as much as possible," Masterson says. "At the same time, we will pick up each other when someone is fully, fully on the ground."
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