never watched “Friends,” the hallmark sitcom of the 90s that forced on us—ahem, introduced us to—the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry and Courtney Cox.
So maybe I’m missing what is undoubtedly the biggest appeal of ABC’s new Wednesday night sitcom, “Mr. Sunshine.”
Without the starring, writing and producing credits of Matthew Perry, I doubt this innocuous little show would have ever existed.
Perry plays Ben Donovan, the executive manager of the Sunshine Center, a San Diego sports and entertainment arena.
This tired rehashing of the supposedly zany workplace goings-on is saved only by the fact that a facility such as the Sunshine Center provides different episode setups each week.
Ben is supposed to be gloomy, cynical, selfish and a player.
Countless reviews have cited Ben’s dislikeable character as “Mr. Sunshine’s” greatest failing. Entertainment Weekly wondered if viewers wanted to spend week after week with the supposedly “dour” Ben Donovan, and
BuddyTV.com wrote that Ben often “oversteps selfishness and goes straight into unnecessary cruelty.”
Except…he doesn’t, really.
Ben’s actions on screen completely contradict his writer-assigned personality traits that those reviews parrot.
If he’s so gloomy and cynical, why does his face light up when his boss compliments him? How is he a player if he’s begging his office hook-up to move in with him?
Sure, he’s a little sarcastic—a role that, I’ll admit, Perry knows how to play well.
But on today’s average comedy sitcoms, what character isn’t sarcastic?
What is really the problem with “Mr. Sunshine” is that it feels like it’s been done a thousand times before.
It’s flat out boring, which is criminal considering the awesome talent involved.
Allison Janney (“The West Wing”) plays Ben’s crazy, drug-addled boss Crystal, Nate Torrence (“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) comes in as Crystal’s dimwitted and neglected only child, and Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) has a few charismatic moments as a beleaguered janitor.
These actors are “Mr. Sunshine’s” greatest and most promising assets.
But even Janney’s impressive timing and Torrence’s deadpan expressions couldn’t save the first two episodes
of the show.
These characters aren’t dislikeable—they’re just uninteresting. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, veteran comedies like “30 Rock” and “Community” riff on the same stereotypes and characters to much greater, and funnier, effect.
There’s such a gathering of talent on “Mr. Sunshine,” though, that I can’t help but hope it will soon produce something great.
Some shows need time to grow into themselves, to find their comedic footing. I’m rooting for “Mr. Sunshine”—and fine, Matthew Perry, too—despite its lackluster opening episodes.
There may be character flops, but I wouldn’t write the show off just yet.