Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Looking back on 2010-2011's TV failures and one success

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Last Fall, I eagerly jumped into the new TV offerings and proudly backed a number of losers: No Ordinary Family, Running Wilde, (*# My Dad Says, and Outsourced. All four shows appeared problematic from the outset to most critics and I valiantly defended them based on either potential or the fact that they were already pretty good.

Some of these shows I slowly watched decline in quality and took too long to admit to myself that they were lost causes. No Ordinary Family initially had some flaws (TGIF-levels of family mushiness) and some strengths (great sidekicks, cool special effects) and strengths but the weaknesses got more annoying as it became more apparent that the writers were incapable of fixing it.

Outsourced faltered in the last couple of episodes but was a good run. I still think the critics, the audience, and other assorted pop culture pundits didn't give it a chance. #$)* My Dad Says never had a lot to offer and I never expected much from it beyond some pleasant one-liners, so I was never disappointed.

Running Wilde, on the other hand, was somewhere in the middle. I never found it unenjoyable to watch but if you put a gun to my head, I might be forced to admit against it's detractors that it ran into a bit of a holding pattern with its characters. Defending the show was made a harder task by the fact that even Mitch Hurwitz wasn't even on my side: He later admitted that the network stifled his vision.

I still never have found any middle ground, however, with the TV show "Mister Sunshine." This show has not generated an ounce of enthusiasm in pop culture from anyone: The critics and blogosphere basically shrugged it off as mediocre and, unlike some shows, no one has even suggested in response that it's worthy of some kind of "brilliant but cancelled" status.

The show stars Matthew Perry as a caustic GM of a sports arena in San Diego with Allison Janey as his zany boss (and she achieved a pretty unique tone of zaniness, I might add). Perry's mild brand of droll pessimism is countered by the annoyingly optimistic James Lesure. He also has a friend-with-benefit-turned-ex played by Andreas Anders, and another cloud cuckoo lander in the form of his boss' estranged son played by Nate Torrence.

Looking at potential reasons why this show didn't take off, one explanation might be that two other recent series-"Better off Ted" and "Archer"-took workplace craziness to further extremes and with more effectiveness.

I'd argue that while "Mr. Sunshine" isn't' the sharpest satire of the bunch, it has some very strong characters. A number of the side characters-the creepy yet sexy assistant played by Portia Doubleday, Torrence, Janey-were all big scene stealers and they were usually stealing scenes from someone you liked watching.

It's true that the characters all seem borrowed from other places:
Perry's character wasn't that far off from Studio 60, Janey's characters are usually nutty, and both Liesure and Andreas Anders were playing those same kinds of characters on other shows as well.

Still, this was a show that was one of the ones I most looked forward to watching week after week.

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