Benjamin (Ben) Madigan
Writers: Cindy Chupack, Tom Leopold, Marc Flanagan, Wendy Goldman
Directors: various, including James Burrows
Gabriel Byrne served as co-executive producer
Madigan Men was produced by Chupack Productions / Touchstone Television, in association with Artists Television Group, distributed by ABC
Series run of 12 episodes, beginning 6 October 2000. Filmed on location in New York City
Oct 2000-Dec 2000, Fri 9:30-10:00 pm
First telecast: October 6, 2000
Last telecast: December 22, 2000
Show type: Multi-Camera Sitcom
Episodes List With Original Air Dates The First And Only Season
1. Pilot (10/6/2000)
2. Irish Men Can’t Jump (10/13/2000)
3. Dearly Deported (10/20/2000)
4. Love And Dermatology (10/27/2000)
5. Bachelors (11/3/2000)
6. Love’s Labor Lost (11/10/2000)
7. Three Guys, A Girl, And A Conversation Nook (12/1/2000)
8. The Kid’s Alright (12/8/2000)
9. Meet the Wolfes (aka: “Neighbors”) (12/15/2000)
10. White Knight
11. The Strike (aka: “Alpha Architect”)
12. Like Father, Like Son (aka: “The Grudge”)
Roy Dotrice as Seamus
John Hensley as Luke
Grant Shaud as Alex
Bailey the Dog
Irishman Benjamin Madigan is a successful New York architect, recently divorced, who tries to get back into the dating scene with help from teenage son Luke. Seamus, Ben’s widower father, also moves in with the Madigan men, and much hilarity ensues. —Brian Barjenbruch/IMDB
International film star Gabriel Byrne (End of Days, The Usual Suspects) comes to television in a new comedy from Golden Globe Award-winning writer Cindy Chupack (Sex and the City), which examines the lives of three generations of men making their way through the dating world.
Byrne stars as Benjamin Madigan, a handsome, successful and charismatic architect in New York City. He is single, adorable and available and should be making out like a bandit with the ladies. But Benjamin is recently divorced, and after 20 years of being a dutiful husband and provider, he just hasn’t got a clue about dating. He is a member of a rare breed of men — the sexy man completely oblivious to his own sexiness. While his co-workers shove him into the dating world, he is full of the most rudimentary questions, like how soon to call a woman after she gives you her number. For the answers to these and many other questions, Ben can turn to his 16-year-old son, Luke (John Hensley), for whom juggling a series of girlfriends couldn’t come more naturally. In addition, Ben’s recently widowed father, Seamus (Roy Dotrice, TV’s Beauty and the Beast), has just moved in. Seamus is ornery and speaks his mind, and with Luke’s help, they might just be able to teach Benjamin a thing or two about dating and women in the 21st century.–ABC press release
More promotional images are available in the Gallery.
July 29, 2000 Television Critics Association Press Tour
As to his move from movies to television: “Movies, by and large, have become more formulaic and more market-driven than they ever have been before,” he points out. “There are wonderful writers working in television – superb writers – and it seems to me that the complexity of issues that are dealt with in television are far more interesting than the formulas that movies allow.”
August 3, 2000 From the (American) TV Guide Insider: Sex for Men
Gabriel Byrne believes that his upcoming ABC sitcom, “Madigan Men,” will be the male equivalent of HBO’s Sex and the City — but with less exposed flesh. “From my experience, I’d never seen a series that dealt with the secret emotional lives of men,” the Irish actor says. “You don’t get to hear what they’re thinking.”
Inspired by the candor of “Sex and the City” and, ironically, women’s magazines, Byrne wanted to do a show that “projected the way [I] felt about the world.” The charismatic 50-year-old says that “Madigan Men” is an attempt to explore men’s feelings about sex and relationships. “In the magazines I saw,” he explains, “I just wondered where do men go to discuss these things and that’s what led to the idea.”
Like Byrne, who has two children with ex-wife Ellen Barkin (he calls their split “amicable”), his character, Benjamin Madigan, is a single dad slowly adapting to New York City’s dating scene. “Like everybody else in the universe, I have had good dating experiences and bad dating experiences,” he says. “It’s one thing to be dating when you’re young… 20, 24. You’re much less guarded and more optimistic about the world and you’re willing to take a chance. When you get a little bit older, you start looking for specifics and you say, ‘I cannot survive without somebody who’s reasonably curious about the world that goes on around them.”
Still, his priority remains his kids, Jack and Romy Marion, whom he was seated next to at Barkin’s June wedding to Revlon chairman Ron Perelman. “I’m doing a sitcom [in New York] so that I can be available to them,” says Byrne. “And if they move… I will move with them. It is as simple as that. I put them before my career.” —Allie Cahill, TV Guide
WENN: Gabriel Byrne’s Television Risk, 30 October 2000 [This article is no longer available on the Internet]
Irish hearthrob actor Gabriel Byrne has two main reasons for making his new TV sitcom “Madigan Men” (2000). The 50-year-old star says, “The primary reason I did it is because I got to the age where I just got tired of being on location movies and I wanted a life that had regularity and normality in regard to my kids.” And Byrne – whose two children by ex-wife Ellen Barkin live in New York – contends that his main motive for doing the show was because he had never produced a TV or movie series before. He adds, “I’m not somebody who needs to leave feature films and go into TV. That’s not why I did it. Going to Broadway this year was a risk. Everything I’ve tried to do has been about trying to do something that has been a bit unpredictable, that has been a risk.”
WENN: Byrne’s Sitcom Is Slammed By Critics, 25 August 2000 [This article is no longer available on the Internet]
Movie idol Gabriel Byrne’s new sitcom, “Madigan Men” (2000) has been given the thumbs-down by critics. A pilot of the new show – allegedly a male version of “Sex and the City” (1998) and penned by the same author – has been panned by reviewers. The New York Times reviewer says, “The only door likely to be opened by this show is the one marked ‘Exit’. It focuses more on father-son angst and Irish proverbs than giving women tips on the male psyche.” Media Week describes the show, which is being given a prime time Friday night slot, as “the second worst schedule move” of the autumn. Byrne plays divorcee Ben Madigan, who lives with his teenage son and grey-haired father.
More screencaps provided by Aragarna are in the Gallery.
Benjamin: Why is my 17-year-old son in a bar?
Seamus: Oh, pipe down, will ye? We were takin’ you to pubs in Dublin when you were six!
Benjamin: Oh, yes, I forgot, the Irish Head Start program.
Seamus: Ah, Benji. Did Jesus tell you I was here?
Benjamin: Yes dad, and the doorman’s name is “Hay-soos”.
John G. Nettles/PopMatters [This review is no longer available at the PopMatters website]
As Ben stumbles from bad date to bad date, we’re supposed to view the singles wilderness through his naive eyes. It’s sort of like “Sex and the City,” only male and with Dotrice’s Irish aphorisms in place of Kim Catrall constantly saying fuck.
Unlike “Sex and the City,” “Madigan Men” is utter hooey. As unfair as it may seem, a wealthy, handsome single architect with a commitment to monogamy and an Irish accent simply would not have that much trouble getting a girlfriend. Hell, I’d date him.
NEW YORK — Gabriel Byrne and Margaret Conlin are kissing on a couch in front of a camera crew and empty bleachers. In walks their “son,” John C. Hensley. They separate. There follows an exchange about who’s in trouble and why. The director calls cut, and Byrne sits back, looking breathless and slightly dazed. It will get easier, the dialogue or the blocking or the kiss or all of the above.
This is Episode 4 of Byrne’s new half-hour sitcom, “Madigan Men” (premiering tonight at 9:30 on ABC), rehearsing on a sound stage in Astoria, Queens, the day before it is to be filmed before a live audience. The show is about a newly separated, moderately Irish Manhattan architect living with his fearfully Irish widowed father (Roy Dotrice) and his fully American teenage son. Conlin, who plays his estranged wife, is here to confuse him emotionally, in a manner meant to represent real life.
“I want to show what it’s like to be a middle-aged man, to be not sure of the world, to be open, to be vulnerable to making mistakes and to be a recognizable human being,” says Byrne, 50, who came up with the idea and is a producer on the show.
“I looked at all of these magazines, and I said, ‘Here are all of these magazines for women,’ ” he continues. ” ‘How to Have the Perfect Orgasm,’ ‘How to Cook the Proper Meal,’ ‘How to Keep Your Man.’ Where are the equivalent magazines for men? There’s one magazine, and that was ‘Perfect Abs in 10 Days’ or ‘Rock Climbing in the Andes’ or ‘Drink as Much Beer as You Want and Still Have the Body That Women Go Crazy For.’ Women can talk about the most intimate things in print and amongst themselves and there seems to be a forum for that kind of thing, but for men there isn’t. Does that mean that men don’t feel the same things? Of course they do. So that’s where the idea came from, the idea of being a man who doesn’t know all the answers.”
Byrne gives the impression that he’s talking about himself, although he seems to know quite a few of the answers. The first one–answering an unasked question–is why he’s doing this show, since he’s had a long and relatively healthy movie career playing mostly underworld types, notably in “Miller’s Crossing,” “The Usual Suspects” and, most recently, “End of Days” (as Satan). The answer puts him squarely in line with the character he plays.
“I wanted something that would keep me in New York for six, seven months of the year because I wanted to be with my kids,” he says, referring to Romy and Jack, the two children he had with his former wife, actress Ellen Barkin. “It’s more and more difficult for me as I get older to be away from them.”
There are other, professional reasons why he chose to do a sitcom. One of them is to rework his image, which is sort of brooding Irish. In person he’s quite droll and loquacious. He doesn’t lay his Irishness on with a trowel. He uses a butter knife. This is not the easiest quality to convey in sitcomland, which tends to traffic in caricatures.
“When I first met with Gabriel,” says the show’s executive producer, Cindy Chupack, one of the masterminds behind “Sex and the City,” “I felt like the challenge was to try to capture his natural charisma and charm and figure out a way to fit that into the character, that he would be comfortable playing it and would come across naturally and he wouldn’t have to be forcing some kind of other charm or personality.”
Byrne is a film and stage actor, having appeared on Broadway most recently with Dotrice in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” That means he’s used to playing subtly to the camera as well as projecting to the back of the orchestra seats. Both mediums have a captive audience and require–and reward–audience participation. Television, on the other hand, has to compete with all kinds of distractions, which encourages a kind of headline acting, especially in comedies, because people have to be told when to laugh (hence the laugh track or, these days, the live audience). Byrne is not interested in doing that, however.
“What I find in a lot of comedies is that people do shtick for the camera and the audience and they’re not relating to each other,” he says. “Whereas what I’m very focused on is the idea of people behaving in a real way in real situations, and it’s the humor that comes out of the clash of different realities that interests me. I’m not interested in performing for an audience who expect over-the-top, fake acting. And the actors we’ve chosen are all very reality-based.”
One of them, at least for the pilot, was Clea Lewis, a veteran of “Ellen,” who played Byrne’s secretary and represented Chupack’s own highly developed philosophy in relationship matters. She was the voice of female sanity, trying to keep Byrne’s newly single character from turning into all the other crummy single guys. Only audiences won’t see Lewis, except for the premiere. She was replaced by Sabrina Lloyd (“Sports Night”). While this kind of recasting between pilot and series is not unusual and everybody has great things to say about both women, it’s a sore spot.
“That is a thorny question,” Byrne says soberly. “They do reserve the right to approve or disapprove of actors. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what happened there. I was away in Ireland at the time. I think it’s most unfortunate if an actor appears and is replaced for whatever reason. It was a decision that was taken, and we can only support it. And beyond that I don’t really have anything to say.”
“I’m not sure she was ever set as a regular,” says Stu Bloomberg, co-chairman of the ABC Entertainment Television Group. “I think she was a guest star. And while I think she was great in ‘Ellen’ for us, when we canceled ‘Sports Night,’ we have always thought that Sabrina Lloyd had a real charm and intelligence and we wanted to see her back on ABC.”
Byrne insists that he has ABC’s support, that the network has not otherwise interfered and has pledged to allow the program to find its way. Even if it does, it will be an uphill climb, given the time slot.
Perhaps because of this, or because TV is such a crapshoot, Byrne and Chupack are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Chupack can go back to “Sex and the City.” Byrne can go back to movies and the stage. But whatever happens, it won’t change Byrne’s feelings about why he tried TV in the first place. He’s frustrated with the movie business. The big films involving big money are too cautious, too formulaic. Independent films–and he’s produced several (“In the Name of the Father,” “Into the West”)–are too hard to get off the ground. Overriding all of this is the sense that too much emphasis is placed on success, and that success is defined so narrowly.
“I’ve come to value my own personal life as much as I value movies increasingly over the last four or five years,” he says. “I began to think, ‘OK, what about me, does this make me happy, is this something that I really want to do, or is this something I’m doing because I have to do it?’ I guess I’m learning to make decisions based on what I want as opposed to what I feel other people want me to do or what they think I should be doing.”
While it is easy to see the influence of that landmark ensemble show in the familial ambience of ”Madigan Men,” it remains to be seen whether Mr. Byrne’s approach translates over the long haul as freshness or as naivete. As the cast and crew know, the show’s fate now rests with the legions of real television veterans, the Nielsen families. ”It’s a game of nerves as this point,” Mr. Kellman said.
For his part, Mr. Byrne says he feels both exhilarated and terrified. He recalls what James Burrows, who directed the program’s pilot, told him: ”Say good-bye to your anonymity.” But in manly fashion, Mr. Byrne is trying to keep his emotions in check.
”If it works I’ll be very happy,” he said. ”And if it doesn’t work, at least I tried to say something that’s a little bit different.”
The show also explores Ben’s reluctance to date, despite his good looks and irresistible Irish accent. His business partner, Alex Rosetti (Grant Shaud), finds Ben’s hesitance mystifying.
Cultural stereotyping aside, “Madigan Men” is creatively inoffensive, but at its best, it’s no better than cute.
And that’s a shame, given the impressive track records of Byrne and Dotrice, who worked together recently on Broadway in “A Moon for the Misbegotten.”
Jam! Showbiz [This article is no longer available]
The rapport between Mr. Byrne and Mr. Dotrice set the tone for the warmth that the producers and writers are attempting to make a defining characteristic of ”Madigan Men.” But whether such a show can thrive in an age when high camp is the order of the night in prime-time comedy — with NBC’s Emmy-winning ”Will and Grace” and Fox’s ”Malcolm in the Middle” setting the caffeinated, crack-a-minute pace — is the question taunting and tantalizing the show’s creators.
”We’re trying to make it much more character-driven,” Ms. Chupack said. It is a red-flag term that is sometimes translated by network executives to mean ”not very funny.” Ms. Chupack added: ”We do have an ongoing battle convincing the network to trust us, that if we have a moment that’s serious, that people will stick with us.”
There were three episodes of the Madigan Men TV show that were produced but not broadcast due to early cancellation of the series. Their titles were “White Knight”, “The Strike” (aka: “Alpha Architect”), and “Like Father, Like Son (aka: “The Grudge”).
Great website that chronicles the beginning, middle, and end of this series, including articles published with full-text, links to various resources, and information about the two leading men.
Lyrics to the theme song, “Father’s Son,” written by Keith Roberts and Randy Woolford, performed by The Young Dubliners
You took me by the hand
You made me understand
You taught me who I am
And how to be a man
For better or for worse
A bless and not a curse
But just a father’s verse
To tell you that you’re first
To tell you that you’re mad
This Mega TV Page is dedicated to Aragarna, who provided the videos and the screencaps for us. And thanks to Lara for the promotional videos.