ABC Takes 'Big Shots' at Traditional Values

How would you feel if your spouse cheated on you?  Should you just get over it, on the grounds that cheating goes on all the time?

Of course not.  But that's what ABC's new offering, Big Shots, tells you to do.

The concept of the show, according to its Web site, is to “explore…what it means to be a man in 2007.”  It's just like Hollywood to take an intriguing idea and use it to attack traditional values.

In addition to normalizing adultery, the show portrays marriage as a dismal, spirit-draining burden.  Most scenes are weighed down by sophomoric, sex-obsessed dialogue, when they aren't depicting sexual activity.

Big Shots centers around four high-powered businessmen friends and their dysfunctional relationships. Demonstrating a lack of artistic creativity, the show's main characters are a series of tired stereotypes: the divorced womanizer, the cheater, the cuckold and the henpecked husband. 

Even the plot twists aren't all that surprising, like Duncan (the womanizer) accidentally having an encounter with a pre-op transsexual prostitute, or James (the cuckold) finding out that his wife had an affair with his late boss, or Karl's (the cheater's) mistress manipulatively becoming friends with his wife. 

Big Shots makes marriage look utterly bleak.  James thought his marriage was strong, but it wasn't.  Karl's wife is devoted to him, but apparently not exciting enough in their intimate life.  Brody (the henpecked husband) is constantly complaining about having to keep his wife happy.

Worst of all, the show depicts all sorts of sexual excesses, particularly adultery, as normal.

A female colleague of the cuckold actually says, “you're not the first guy to be cheated on.  It's 2007.  It's a lot more common than you think.” One of the main characters, the womanizer, reinforces the theme:

Duncan: Rite of passage for men.  Loss of virginity, first threesome, discovery of cheating wife.  The trifecta. 

James: You, too?

Duncan: My second wife.  After Lisbeth.  Of course, I encouraged her to do it.  Spice things up.

Cheating may be common, but that doesn't mean it isn't a serious betrayal of trust.  . Treating adultery with such a cavalier attitude minimizes the damage it can do to marriages and families.      

The show continually falls into vulgar, tiresome dialogue about sex, for example Karl's explanation why he decides to engage in couples counseling with his mistress (with the same therapist he and his wife see, no less) rather than break off their relationship:

Karl: Look at her. She's an interior designer by trade. But you know what her real skill is? Making an undersized, insecure, lactose-intolerant man feel like a porn star.

While Karl is in a counseling session with his wife, his mistress sends a text message: “I miss your penis.” 

When Duncan receives the cold shoulder from Terrance, a business rival, he speculates it's because he “rear-ended his sister in the parking lot.”  Brody clarifies this reference:  “maybe it's because neither of you were in your cars at the time.” 

A running gag in the second episode involves Brody waxing an intimate part of his body at the request of his wife:

Brody: Janelle decided how she wanted to spice up sex night.  She wants me to wax my boys.

Duncan: Your boys?

Brody: Yeah, my boys.  Down below? Round and rounder?

In its fall TV preview, Entertainment Weekly reported that the goal of this show is to “create well-rounded male friendships in the way that Sex and the City did for women.”  Maybe the writers should begin by finding out what a man is. 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.