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My Review of Mr. Sunshine.

15 Feb

February 15, 2011

Before I begin, I have to note that this is a “blind” review. That means that I am reviewing the show without having seen it. It does not mean that I am sightless. If I were then I wouldn’t be bothering with this review. Why am I doing this blind? I don’t want to watch this show. It puts me among the ranks of professional critics, who often send interns or assistants to movie screenings or have them watch a new show. The critics then write their review based on what they are told. (Some of you older folks out there may remember a time when there was a little thing called “journalistic integrity.” Today we have bloggers like me.)

Mr. Sunshine is the long awaited- no, no, I can’t finish that. No matter what the network execs claim, no one was waiting for Matthew Perry to come back to TV. He’s only doing television because his movie career, not too bright to begin with, has fizzled out. But for the sake of “journalistic integrity” (What’s that?) I have to admit that I liked the one where he knocked up Salma Hayek, but I should probably attribute that to Salma Hayek.

Perry is the final Friends actor to come back to TV. Even the guy who played Gunther did an episode of Scrubs back in 2005. He’s also probably the least successful, unless you count David Schwimmer. OK, Matt LeBlanc’s spin-off tanked, but to be fair, he was the worst actor of the bunch.

Part of his appeal on Friends was that you could watch him shrivel away as his drug habit got worse and worse, then after he kicked the habit you could watch him get bigger and bigger as he couldn’t stop eating.

Mr. Sunshine stars Matthew Perry and probably some other people. I don’t expect it to do well. Take any classic sitcom. To be successful you have to start with characters you care about. Largely, wacky guests and “funny situations of the week” are secondary. I’ll show you what I mean.

The Honeymooners. Everyone knows and loves Ralph, Alice, Norton, and Trixie. Once you have likeable characters that you can relate to you’re almost finished. They didn’t need a lot of sets. Nearly every show was set almost entirely in the Kramden’s living room.

I Love Lucy: Two main sets- The Ricardo’s apartment and the Club Babaloo or whatever it was called.

All in The Family: The living room.

Seinfeld: Jerry’s apartment and the coffee shop. Sure, they went places, but 90% of the time they were in one of those two sets.

Everybody Loves Raymond: Ray’s house, his parent’s house.

Friends: The prototypical show where a bunch of people sit around and talk. The coffee shop and the apartments were really interchangeable.

On the surface, Mr. Sunshine seems to fit right in because it is set in one place, an arena. Don’t be deceived. In a sense, this show is a reverse Doctor Who. The Doctor travels through time and space, always landing in one strange situation after another. You never know where he’ll land next. Mr. Sunshine is the opposite because while he never moves, the wacky situations come to him. He works in an arena and one week the circus is in town! Clowns! Elephants! Next week, the Smurfs are putting on a show! Everyone loves the Smurfs! After that, wrestling! Let’s get Matthew Perry in the ring with a wrestler! A concert episode! We can have a wacky mix up with a celebrity cameo!

Re-read the second half of the last paragraph- that was probably the network pitch right there.

See the problem? This show was conceived backwards. Instead of coming up with interesting characters they came up with they think is a funny set up and began from there. No commercial I’ve seen focuses on the characters. They focus on the Smurfs, the elephant, the clowns, the guy in a mascot suit, the hockey team. Matthew Perry could be a cardboard cutout because all the commercials show is him grinning. Oh, there is the one commercial that shows a semi-funny gag, where Perry is on the phone talking to Springsteen’s rep. But guess what? That fits into the celebrity cameo cliché I mentioned above. What happens when they run out of funny events for the arena? Ask that question in six weeks. Then you’ll see what happens to a comedy where you don’t like the characters. (The same thing is happening to the has-to-be-cancelled-soon-because-it-sucked-from-Day-One Better With You. Man, that show is a chore to watch.)

Have you noticed the motto for the USA Network? “Characters welcome.” They get it.

Could the show have been funny? Sure, there is a chance. I didn’t see it. Of course the reviews say it was mediocre but as you may be thinking by now, what do the critics know? I simply don’t think the show has any staying power.

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