The Week The Women Went

Of all the apocalyptic scenarios played out on television in recent years, perhaps none is so dire as The Week The Women Went. Like a half-assed, reverse Y—The Last Man, the adult women of Yemassee, South Carolina are leaving town for a week—seven whole days!—as the men try to rebuild their society from the ashes. Between negotiating the harsh jungle of the laundromat and trying to remember their kids’ names, the men are further tasked with planning and holding a pre-scheduled weekend beauty pageant like this is some reality competition show and not a world barely held together by fraying duct tape and Benadryl.

Jeff Foxworthy narrates like it’s The Deadliest Catch: Over shots of a full sink and rambunctious kids, he says, “A pageant is looming. It’s only day one and Yemassee is already starting to descend into chaos.” The Week The Women Went even goes Old Testament in search of some back-up, citing an impending thunderstorm as divine commentary. “As the experiment is set to begin, another woman is making her presence known, Mother Nature. If this is an omen, the people of Yemassee are in for a punishing week.” Calling this half-baked, pre-conceived reality show a social experiment is testing the strength of my eye-sockets, but pretty much everything that comes out of Foxworthy’s mouth is hilarious. He didn’t write the script, but he sure commits.

Unfortunately, beyond a basic incredulity that husbands and fathers, of all people, will be able to keep their children alive for a week, it’s hard to tell much about the series from the premiere, which is mostly expositional prologue. We meet Stephen, the commuter dad who’s excited to spend a week at home with the kids. Matt, the 24-year-old Marine who’s about to be responsible for his girlfriend’s teenage daughters and young son. Justin, the mama’s-boy fire chief who is about to propose to his girlfriend of three years. Doug, who adopted his 15-month-old twins a year ago that week and has another baby on the way. Skyler and Bug, the two teenage girls who have been handed the reins of their mothers’ restaurants. There’s always something else to establish, so the premiere never lags, though it does succumb to that annoying trope of leading each commercial break with previews from the next act and introducing each act with a quick recap.

But it’s not all responsible housewives and dumb husbands, and that’s what saves The Week The Women Went. Don’t get me wrong, this thing is all about traditional gender roles. Gay America saw this pitch and yawned in unison. But the men aren’t as hapless as the producers want. They’re tired at the end of a hard day, but at every little hissy-fit, the guys are up to the task. When the teenage girls knock over their little brother, Matt negotiates an apology. When one man’s daughter is jumping and screaming, refusing to go to bed, he waits her out and eventually lies there with her until she falls asleep. Stephen barely sleeps at all because he’s so worried he won’t hear his son crying. These fathers underestimate themselves, because that is how this show and all its tenets and stereotypes work, but they shouldn’t. And The Week The Women Went is the proof.

What’s most refreshing about this show, though, is that none of the characters are especially dying for those reality-TV cameras to follow their exploits. One father even backs out of frame as his wife says goodbye to their kids. I gasped. Best of all, Doug moves his family in with another, Darnell and his kids (a son with ADHD and a drama queen daughter, his words), for the week. The premiere doesn’t have time to see how this blended family is working—so far each father takes care of his kids and then they chat with each other—but it’ll be interesting to see how their teamwork lightens their individual loads. And Stephen is the one who gets the last-minute task of pulling off a beauty pageant within a week, but he drops by Darnell’s place and the three dads seem baffled but ready to work. They’re all so low-key and game that The Week The Women Want is actually, accidentally, pleasant. Nobody is treating this like anything more than it is, seven little days while Mom’s on vacation. Nobody except Foxworthy.

Stray observations:

  • I'm giving the premiere a C+, but now that the exposition's out of the way, the series proper could be more interesting.
  • The Week The Women Went is based on a BBC show that ran for two seasons. Anyone have any insight about that show?
  • I’d love some more detailed information about this “experiment,” specifically whether every adult woman really leaves town. The 2010 census cites Yemassee’s population at about 1,000, and I estimate about 100 women participate in the exodus parade (the march to the train station)
  • Those women are spending the week in a Florida resort and are allowed no contact with the men. But the cameras are with them, too, because mama’s boy Justin’s mother Tammy is not happy to be spending that week with his new fiancée.
  • Sample Tammy quote: “My relationship with Justin is beyond a mother and a son. I do everything for him except wash him. If he wanted me to, that might be a different story.” So, yeah, expect some good, old-fashioned reality-show sparring.
  • Mayor Goodwin is worried his reelection is riding on the success of this experiment. So maybe some people are taking this too seriously.
  • One preacher tells his congregation, “‘Women, you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.’ Who said that? Every man who’s ever been married says that.”
  • One last Foxworthy quote: “In the beginning, there was man and there was woman, but what would happen if all the women suddenly disappeared?”

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