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Male Pattern Boldness (Caroline Kepnes: Entertainment Weekly)



Behind every great man on TV, there's... another great man! And that's why's men of the year come in pairs. Some of them sit side by side, jumping down each other's throats on a daily basis. Some, on the other hand, rarely appear on screen together. Regardless, the battle of Banker vs. Furniture Designer is as much of a thrill as the perpetual sparring between former child star and... former child star. So, here they are, our men of the year -- vivacious, witty, depressed, evil and, for the most part, mighty fine.

Chris Noth and John Corbett, ''Sex and the City''

As the human equivalent of a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos, Mr. Big (Noth) isn't exactly designed for everyday use. He smokes cigars, he thinks he knows everything, he's greedy. Yet, thanks to Noth's wink-wink mannerisms, Big is transforming from a dashing commitment-phobe to an aging loner -- which makes him more pathetic, yet also somehow more appealing. On the flip side, Aidan (Corbett) is more like a pair of slides: comfortable, if a little flat. Neither man truly suffices, which is largely why ''Sex and the City'' succeeds: We love the contrast between Big, who knows Carrie well enough to tell her that she's not ''the marrying kind,'' and Aidan, a suitor so kind that we all wish Carrie WAS.

Scott Speedman and Scott Foley, ''Felicity''

The question for ''Felicity'' fans used to be simple: Ben or Noel? But this, season...Speedman's Ben and Foley's Noel are hardly boyfriend material. And we couldn't be happier about it! Not-so-book-smart Ben has confronted ambiguity on all fronts -- his professor doesn't think he can be a doctor; his girlfriend cheats; and his dad is dying. But because of Speedman's emotional spontaneity, Ben is more alive than angsty (his sheepish grin will never get old). Of course, none of Ben's troubles compare to Noel's slo-mo spiral into depression. Foley has played depression for what it is, not a crying/grimacing game la ''Dawson's Creek,'' but as an inability to feel anything at all. He walks by Felicity --nothing; he gets a great job – nothing. We watch the show -- EVERYTHING.


Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum, ''Smallville''

I didn't salivate at the thought of seeing Clark Kent as a bewildered teen. But the men of ''Smallville'' -- Clark Kent (Welling) and Lex Luthor (Rosenbaum) -- have me drooling like a Pavlovian pup. When Rosenbaum's angst-ridden Lex hides behind the tinted window of his really fast car, it's part James Spader circa ''Pretty in Pink'' and part DC comics, a combination that works because these guys wince and squirm as if they really were coming into their good/evil own. Oh, and they're pretty darn hot. Stranded without Lana in the high school hallway, Clark is a man of steel, encased in a veneer of pretty-boy gloss; and his prematurely bald rival... well, don'tcha just want to give him a healing hug and tell him it's not his fault he's evil? I know I do.

Mario Lopez and Danny Bonaduce, ''The Other Half''

The former stars of ''Saved By the Bell'' and ''The Partridge Family'' are far and away the most vivacious half of this syndicated male version of ''The View.'' While their cohosts Dick Clark (Mr. American Bandstand) and Dr. Jan Adams (he's a real M.D.) often seem bored by their discussions of ''the world of women through the eyes of men,'' Mario and Danny practically burst at the seams when they have to go more than 15 seconds without talking. Perched on stools (I'm guessing that easy chairs were deemed too ''View''-ish), Mario and Danny fly off on tangents with reckless abandon. Lopez is the giddy one -- so thrilled to be on TV that he constantly interrupts a stylist during a segment entitled ''How to Break Up with Your Hairdresser''; Bonaduce is the revealer -- dishing about his obviously unresolved jealousy of former costar/chick magnet David Cassidy and complaining about his wife. Somebody should give these guys a raise -- or at least some potted plants for the barren stage!


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