Pilot episodes are notorious for being a little rough around the edges. The series is just starting out, so the jokes aren’t as funny and there is generally a lot of exposition to wade through. It’s the bare bones of what the series can achieve. There’s a lot of leeway, though — a not-so-good pilot can turn into a great new series.

How to Be a Gentleman

Pilot
Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.
CBS


Sadly, there’s no hope for the new CBS comedy “How To Be a Gentleman.” The pilot falls so flat it’s a wonder it even got picked up in the first place. The jokes aren’t funny, the acting is sub-par at best and the audience is left thinking, “Why do we even care?”

It’s actually painful to watch these talented comedic actors being pulled to this level. Rhys Darby (“Flight of the Conchords”), Dave Foley (“NewsRadio”) and Kevin Dillon (“Entourage”) prove that even great actors can’t overcome tired plotlines and lifeless dialogue.

The series centers on Andrew Carlson (David Hornsby, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), an etiquette columnist at a formerly upscale magazine currently making the transition from an Esquire to a Maxim. Carlson’s editor (Foley) gives him the task of overhauling his column on all things gentlemanly to something more “macho-guy” friendly. As Foley puts it, “They want to expand the readership by targeting people who don’t read.”

In a chance encounter, Carlson meets Bert (Dillon) a gym owner who used to beat him up in high school. Bert is the definition of “macho,” and after a few drinks at his chosen meeting place (a strip club) the two have agreed to help each other. Carlson’s going to teach Bert to be a gentleman while Bert’s going to teach Carlson to be a man, period.

Hornsby, who also created the series, plays Carlson as a watered-down version of Barney from “How I Met Your Mother,” only without any of Barney’s bawdy charm. Dillon’s Bert is a far cry from his days as Johnny Drama, though no one plays stupid quite like him. There’s just nothing redeeming about either of the main characters, and the whole “Odd Couple” angle is weak at best. Even the laugh track sounds tired.

The whole concept is too focused on pointed jokes at Carlson’s obvious lack of “manliness.” It’s just not fun watching the poor man take one hit after another. Even Carlson’s sister Janet (Mary Lynn Rajskub, “24”) is in on it, throwing out one bitchy comment after the next. For his part, Carlson seems immune, but that doesn’t make it any easier to like him.

CBS should really pull the plug on this one. With actors like these, it shouldn’t be a trial just to make it through one 30-minute episode. Yet every moment is more cringe-worthy than the last. And to add insult to injury, CBS has lined up “Gentleman” against such TV gold as “Parks and Recreation” on NBC. “Gentleman” just can’t compete.

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