TV Makes Way for 'Barry Bradshaw'

If television is to be believed, America's cities are flooded with packs of sensitive, professional men looking for meaningful relationships, meeting male friends for brunch and talking about the states of their hearts.

In other words, TV's modern male has suddenly turned into Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and the City."

Observers have noted that shows like "Jake in Progress," (search) "Kevin Hill" (search) and, arguably, "Joey" (search) have brought to the male side of the television equation the same revolution that's been changing the way women have been portrayed for the last 30 years.

"It's kind of like giving the Mr. Big character a spin-off show of his own," Stuff magazine entertainment editor Cara Shultz said. "Jake [played by actor John Stamos (search)] on 'Jake in Progress' is Mr. Big: He's a successful guy, he's got a rotating set of girls, it's 'Sex in the City' with guys."

But guys like "Jake" are dreaming more about finding a wife and having kids than hitting the town, Mr. Big-style.

"'Sex in the City' was part of a continuum that started three decades ago with 'Mary Tyler Moore' in redefining women, getting them out of the kitchen and into the city," said 20-year television veteran Dee LaDuke, a producer on shows including "Designing Women" and "Girlfriends." "That's the core of what's going on for men as well, but in the opposite direction."

LaDuke thinks these new, touchy-feelier "Barry Bradshaw" characters seem to signal that the old television standards of what defines manliness are out the window.

"They'd always been perceived as the conquerors, the boss, the wheeler-dealer, the father, these male archetypes that always kept chugging along that weren't ever supposed to get hurt except in little glimpses. But now on a weekly basis we are seeing how these men feel when they're not measuring up."

For example, in "Jake," dreamy-eyed Stamos is a womanizing New York City music publicist who tries to give up his tomcat lifestyle in search of true love.

"Joey" sees Matt LeBlanc's (search) lothario "Friends" character trying to reinvent himself as a more mature, homey (and hopefully intelligent) man in Los Angeles.

"Kevin Hill," starring the well-chiseled Taye Diggs (search), throws in a little bit of everything: Diggs plays a swinging New York City single who gets his wings clipped when he's forced to take care of his cousin's baby and work in an all-female law firm.

Reality shows are jumping on the bandwagon, too. In both "Meet the Barkers" (search) and "Newlyweds" (search), onetime music stars give up the pleasures of bachelorhood with the band to rededicate their lives to new families — Blink-182's Travis Barker with a former Miss USA, and Nick Lachey as Mr. Jessica Simpson.

Some of the shows also follow "Sex in the City" in a higher quality of production than might otherwise be expected — for example, "Jake" is a half-hour show but is crisply shot and blocked like a movie, and noticeably lacks a sitcom's laugh track and studio audience.

But though the genders of the characters have changed, the audience so far hasn't, according to Shultz.

"Shows like that appeal more to women, and I think that guys can watch them, but I think that most guys who do watch them are watching them because their girlfriends put them on," she said. "A lot of these shows are still for women."

Female viewers agree that it's nice to see guys who are a little more in touch with their feminine sides.

"I do suppose these guy 'Sex in the City' shows are not exactly the same as shows about guys were before," said 28-year-old dressmaker Erin Steadman. "These characters talk about their feelings more, and we get to relate to them better."

Some men appreciate seeing their softer sides, too.

"It'd be a nice change of pace to see a male-centric show about dating where the dudes aren't all sharks," said graduate student Dan Fenster, 31.

But LaDuke said it's still too early to tell whether these male-redefining shows will catch on with a large group of men, as "Sex in the City" began to in its later years.

"'Sex in the City' had a big gay following, and eventually straight men came along for the sex," she said. "It remains to be seen whether men are interested in seeing themselves as vulnerable losers. But women sure are ready."