LOS ANGELES — We all know that men, in matters of love, are likely to be wounded warriors.
So says “We Are Men,” CBS’ amusing new sitcom about four men making the best of their shared bachelorhood and the camaraderie that results. (It premieres at 8:30 tonight.)
The setting is an apartment complex (located “four exits from Hollywood, which means actresses!”) that caters to the singles crowd, including this motley band of brothers: Frank, a four-time loser with a Casanova complex played by Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”); Stuart, an OB-GYN in the midst of his second divorce who embarrasses everyone with his hot-tub Speedos habit, played by Jerry O’Connell (“Crossing Jordan”); Gil, a small-business owner who feels constant remorse for his bungled affair, played by Kal Penn (“Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”); and Carter, who was ditched by his fiancee at the altar, played by Chris Smith (“Enough Said”).
During their first week shooting the series last August, the foursome are packed into Stuart’s decade-old Buick (his fancy car is hidden so his estranged wife can’t seize it) for a scene where the guys go for a late-night joyride.
Surrounded by three cameras, the car is mounted in front of a green screen on a soundstage at CBS Studio Center, with lights reflecting in the windshield to suggest the car is moving.
Over and over — long enough for any actor to get saddle sore — these stars repeat a lively round of dialogue as Stuart makes an unplanned detour toward his ex-wife’s house to holler out his window.
“I’ve got no other outlets for my anger,” Stuart explains to his friends. “I’m tired of calling sports radio.”
In the back seat beside Carter, Gil (or, more accurately, Kal Penn sporting a bottomless pit) is forced to keep scarfing down chicken taquitos from a paper plate, which a production assistant keeps replenishing take after take.
“I did it straight, sad and frustrated,” says O’Connell after yelling innumerable times at the green screen.
“Give me more sinister,” says the director.
After an hour or more, the scene is finished, and, while the cameras are reset, the four men remove themselves from the car for a break.
Plopping themselves into a nearby row of director’s chairs, they agree that it’s fun to play men with such comic flaws and to lampoon the Y chromosome.
“The other night,” says O’Connell, “we were filming on location in a nice neighborhood with white picket fences, and I’m holding my fist out the car window and screaming at a house. That’s really fun! I would never do this in my real life!” For one thing, he’s happily married to actress Rebecca Romijn. “Even so, it’d be something I’d be too afraid to do.”
This is Friday of their first week in production since they shot the pilot episode back in February. Five days in, they agree they still like each other.
“Everyone’s real nice and grounded and hardworking and professional,” says Smith. “Smart, creative, handsome, in good shape. Healthy eaters, straight teeth, good hair.”
“Good hygiene,” Shalhoub adds. “Excellent hygiene!”
“So no one’s a real pain to be around,” Smith sums up. “Unless I’m that guy, and they haven’t told me yet.”
The only issue so far: the Speedos. It seems that Stuart has a high opinion of his body and loves to display it in the skimpiest of swimwear. This kind of creeps out his pals.
It’s a comic signature of the show, which O’Connell makes the most of.
But do his co-stars feel slighted that they weren’t asked to wear Speedos, too?
Shalhoub: “Oh, I get to wear a Speedo. They just give me trunks to put over it.”
Penn: “I show up for work and I leave work in a Speedo.”
Smith: “I get Jerry’s used Speedos. I got a nice collection going.”
Then O’Connell announces, “Next year, we’re going to give out calendars with all of us posing in Speedos.”
“But I’m planning on releasing one with only pictures of me,” says Penn. “I’m calling it a Kal-endar.”
PHOTO: This publicity image released by CBS shows, from left, Jerry O'Connell, Kal Penn, Chris Smith, and Tony Shalhoub in a scene from "We Are Men," premiering Monday, Sept. 30, at 8:30 p.m. EST. (AP Photo/CBS, Sonja Flemming)