TV REVIEW Setting it STRAIGHT: Comedy Central’s new sitcom provides timely laughs

Comedy Central has struck again with another entry into its already impressive lineup of reality show spoofs. The channel that brought hilariously absurd programming like Contest Searchlight, I’m With Busey, and Reno 911 to airwaves has a new target when it comes to parodying reality shows. This time they’re after Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a fairly easy target that was bound to get spoofed somewhere.

On Monday, Feb. 23, the network aired the first episode of Straight Plan for the Gay Man, a three-part series that will unfold in the coming weeks. The one-hour show features four straight comedians (“The Flaab Four”) who help gay men carry out their supposed dreams of seeing what a day of life is like for a straight guy.

The Flab Four is made up of Kyle Grooms, Curtis Gwynn, Billy Merritt, and Rob Riggle, four not-too-recognizable comedians who haven’t hit it big yet. Grooms is the most notable, from Comedy Central shows like Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn and Premium Blend. In the first show, the guys attempted to turn extremely gay fashion executive Jonathan into a tough meatpacker.

While this show sets out to poke fun at the popular Bravo program of similar name, it really excels by pointing out all the little stereotypical differences between straight and gay men and exploiting them. In Jonathan’s episode, the guys teach him important straight-man lessons like blaming failures on other people, taking joy in the misfortunes of your friends, and shopping at the Salvation Army.

The show has tons of great setups, whether it’s a scene with ultra-trendy Jonathan picking out his wardrobe from piles of used clothing, or one of the comedians redecorating Jonathan’s fashionable apartment with things he finds in the dumpster outside. Although the four comedians tend to go for the obvious joke almost all the time, there are still quite a few laughs and enough to make the show a success.

Contest Searchlight, a fictional parody of the popular Project Greenlight, debuted a couple years ago to mass confusion among Comedy Central viewers. Not many realized that what they were watching was supposed to be ridiculous and that it wasn’t a legitimate reality show. The same is true for I’m With Busey, a brilliant satire on celebrity life that alienated lots of viewers by refusing to admit it was faked. If the show had been marketed differently, Busey would have been heralded as a genius for his amazing performance as a whacked-out version of his celebrity image.

The most popular of Comedy Central’s reality show parodies is Reno 911, a hilarious cop show that has a second season on the way. The format of all of these shows allows for a lot of improv comedy, as it fits perfectly with the documentary style the shows aim for. So instead of doing normal sketch comedy like Kids in the Hall or bizarre sitcom-inspired weirdness like the Upright Citizens Brigade, a really talented comedy troupe could take on reality shows and be a big hit, especially with the edgy Comedy Central audience.

Straight Plan for the Gay Man is a good show, but not a great one. The best comedy in it comes from the ideas, not from the Flab Four, whose execution of these setups is as sloppy as Jonathan’s apartment after a straight guy makeover. Fans of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy should definitely watch, as it’s a funny enough tribute/spoof of that show. But after the three episodes of Straight Plan are long forgotten, the heart of Comedy Central’s programming will still lie with truly innovative and hysterical shows like Chappelle’s Show, Crank Yankers, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Shawn Wines can be contacted at