Picks and Pans Review: The Pall of the Wild

updated 10/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>THE MEN'S MOVEMENT IS DEAD. YOU REMEMBER THE men's movement, one of the first identifiable megatrends of the '90s? Spearheaded by gurus such as the poet Robert Bly, it proposed the quasimystical theory that the modem male has become alienated from his masculine nature and needs to reconnect with the "wild man," that hairy, unfettered, instinctive creature inside him.

This season the movement has become the sitcoms' favorite whipping boy, er, man. On the season opener of Northern Exposure, the town deejay, Chris (John Corbett), asks Maurice (Barry Corbin) about the Bly tape he gave him. "He lost me," responds Maurice, "when he started talking about listening to the ear in your stomach." On Cheers, Frasier (Kelsey Crammer), who is reading the movement bible, Bly's Iron John, lures the barflies on what he calls "a primal search" for the "inner hairy man." His wife, Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), teases him that in his case it must be a "receding inner hairy man." On Murphy Brown, Frank (Joe Regalbuto), armed with his own apocryphal book, New Men, Old Pain, drags the guys at FYI to a men's weekend seminar of Viking poetry, spirit bonding and tribal drumming. On Home Improvement, Tim Allen's neighbor, Wilson (Earl Hindman), natters on about "sitting around the campfire with our elders." On next week's episode of HBO's Sessions, therapist Elliott Gould figures Michael McKean's "wild man" made him call a telephone sex line. "It's what I call the primitive urge we all have inside us," Gould says.

So why does this raft of humor mean the men's movement is over? Because sitcom writers, like vultures, are scavengers, feasting only on carrion. Once you're a prime-time punch line, you're history.

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