Somehow I feel like Fox’s new sitcom Traffic Light pulled one over on me. This is likely my own fault, because the warning signs were there. Three dude main characters in various stages of romantic entanglements? Check. Jokes made at the expense of the women in their lives? Check. Cohabitation without any mention of domestic responsibilities whatsoever? Check. Yet I still had high hopes that this show was going to be (at least kind of) funny and refreshing and (maybe?) offer a more nuanced portrayal of masculinity and relationships than your typical run-of-the-mill network comedy. Maybe because I recognized some of the actors from The Office? I don’t know. Well the joke’s on me, because two episodes in I’m not finding much to love about this sexist snoozefest.
The show, which is based on an Israli sitcom called Ramzor, revolves around three male friends who’ve known each other since college. We’ve got Michael (Roy from The Office), a lawyer who’s married to a woman named Lisa and has a toddler. As a schlocky montage at the end of the pilot makes clear, he represents the red light on the traffic signal because he has stopped living life to get married, or something. We also have Adam, a bespectacled Vince Vaughan character who works for a lad mag—this one’s actually called Bloke—who has just moved in with his girlfriend Callie (yellow light!) and Ethan, a single British paramedic who loves chasing the ladies (green light!). Ethan has a bulldog, Carl, who in my opinion is the show’s breakout star.
Now all of this is a pretty standard setup for a show done in this format, but even though this one very clearly focuses on the lives of men, I thought there still might be some room for progressive gender politics here. (Again, don’t ask me why. Maybe because Traffic Light replaced Running Wilde in the Fox lineup and I was maybe the only person in America who liked that show? Go figure.) Unfortunately, so far the first two episodes have revolved mainly around the men pulling fast ones on the women in their lives in order to get more time to themselves to talk about how awesome they are at pulling fast ones on the women in their lives. A brief rundown of some of the trickery so far: Michael pretends to be at work while he is actually sitting in his car watching DVDs to avoid Lisa and their child, Adam pretends he has to comfort Ethan about a breakup so he can get out of helping Callie paper their kitchen shelves, Ethan pretends to be going through a breakup to help Adam get away from Callie, Michael pretends to be at the gym when he is drinking at a bar to avoid having to come home early, Adam pretends he’s at work when he’s really at a carnival participating in even more trickery, etc., etc. Here is a clip of Michael using the code he worked out with Adam and Ethan to trick his wife so that he doesn’t have to talk to his friends in front of her (a whole bunch of this show takes place on the phone in the car, FYI):
To make things worse (because a show with this type of us vs. them mentality isn’t bad enough already), the women on Traffic Light are not given much to do outside of the domestic sphere, since that’s where they interact with the more important characters (the men). Now, I get that this show is about three male friends so they’re obviously going to take center stage, but why do all of the women’s “demands” have to be about papering the kitchen shelves? It’s clear that Lisa and Callie both work, but we have no idea yet what they do. Do they have friends? Do they secretly want to also get beers when they’re supposed to be at the office or at the gym?
On top of these two-dimensional female characters being problematic, the whole thing strikes me as lazy. Oh, a comedy where men can’t stand the nagging women in their lives yet also need said women to take care of their child and paper their kitchen shelves? We’ve seen this before and it wasn’t funny that time either. I’d much prefer to see a new comedy where men and women make jokes that aren’t at each others’ expense, and I know I’m not alone in that one. To be fair, in the second episode there was a promising subplot involving Michael and Lisa playing tennis together that was pretty funny, so maybe there’s hope for those two’s television marriage yet. I probably won’t tune in to find out though. Sorry, Carl.