February 9th, 2011


Mr. Sunshine

Sometimes you just know a new TV show is going to be bad. You can feel it in your gut, some part of you that says, "Wow, this just looks like everything went wrong at once." That was the feeling I had when I first saw the promos for Matthew Perry's new ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine, which premiered tonight after Modern Family. Still, I decided to give it a shot anyway. I was compelled. I won't lie. It's got Chandler Bing in it, and I've missed Chandler Bing an awful lot.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Perry seems to have missed Chandler a lot too because his character, Ben, the operations manager of the Sunshine Arena, is essentially Chandler at age forty. Same mannerisms, same sarcastic humor, same above it all disposition, same sitcom-level selfishness and fear of commitment. Name a trait Chandler's got and Ben's got it too. In fact, if you turned on Mr. Sunshine and closed your eyes, you'd swear you were listening to one of those Chandler-at-work episodes of Friends.

But the remarkable thing is that the show isn't terrible. Like most pilots, this first episode is rough and a lot of the humor feels forced. (It's a long, long way to get to that circus clowns with axes joke, and even then the payoff isn't worth it.) That said, Allison Janney shows incredible comic timing as Ben's boss, Crystal, who owns the arena, takes serious amounts of illegal drugs, and is so oblivious she wants to start a speech about donating money to a children's cause with the line "Yay black kids!"

Also in the cast is Andrea Anders, late of the deeply missed Better Off Ted and essentially playing the exact same kind of goofy romantic lead here as she did in that much superior sitcom, only now her name is Alice instead of Linda. I suppose for a working actress a paycheck is a paycheck.

Still, it wasn't nearly as bad as the promos made me think it would be. There's potential here, from the wise decision to forego the intrusive laugh track that mars so many other sitcoms to the genius casting of Lost's Jorge Garcia as the arena's nameless head maintenance worker.

The TV Nerd says: Worth another shot next week.