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  • Great Cast but Mr. Sunshine is Mostly Cloudy

    February 11th, 2011

    By Danny Manus (the TV Whore)

    This week I watched the premiere of two new comedies on ABC. Matthew Perry and Allison Janney’s “Mr. Sunshine,” and the relationship comedy with the oddest title ever, “Traffic Light.” First up – Mr. Sunshine.

    How can a comedy with favorite “Friends” star Matthew Perry, the insanely talented and watchable Emmy Award winner Allison Janney, the hilarious Andrea Anders (Joey, Better Off Ted), and the affable Nate Torrence (Studio 60) that’s directed by Tommy Schlamme (West Wing) go wrong?

    I don’t know…but it did.  Badly. And here’s the awful part…I don’t care. I’m going to keep watching.

    I take that back – I know why it doesn’t work. It’s just a really, really bad concept and setting. Matthew Perry’s character, a 40 year old island of a man who doesn’t remember people’s names and doesn’t care about anyone but himself (in other words – ME in 10 years) and runs a rundown stadium. It’s just not a very interesting set up or location. There are only so many concert jokes or sporting event jokes available.

    His relationship with Andrea Anders character is sweet and we get it – they are going to try to be friends for a while but eventually wind up together. And she is so pitch-perfect funny, it’s hard not to like her. I do appreciate the odd incestuous Hollywood connection that she used to play Matt LeBlanc’s friend/love interest on “Joey” and now she’s traded him in for a different “Friend.”

    My friend pointed out that Matthew Perry can’t act if his hands are in his pants. He has to constantly be moving his hands. I watched every single episode of Friends probably 10 times over, but I never noticed it…until now. His gesticulations make what he’s saying funnier and help his comic timing, but man is it distracting now for some reason. I’ve never seen someone use their hands as actual punctuation marks – but he does.

    James Lesure – I don’t get him. I didn’t like his smarmy too-cool-for-the-room shtick on Vegas and I don’t really like it here, especially since it’s a much less cool room he’s in. And Nate Torrence – I feel like I’m just as funny (and fat) and therefore could have played this role and probably better.

    But allow me to take a moment to kiss the feet of Allison Janney, one of my favorite actresses. And as a West Wing superfanatic, and someone who has followed her career even before West Wing (and most certainly after), it’s nice to see her on TV again. And she does play this over-the-top, in-her-own-reality character of Crystal with reckless abandon and clueless perfection. But I’m not sure for how long that character will continue to seem funny even with her wide-eyed, sharp-tongued portrayal.

    Allison Janney guest starred on an episode of Studio 60 with Matthew Perry (and he guested on several episodes of West Wing) and they had great chemistry on both shows. And I would normally have killed to see them together again, especially on a sitcom. And their relationship in Sunshine seems to be the most interesting of all, but I don’t think it’s enough to keep the show fresh and funny for more than a few weeks. There was only one good laugh in this pilot – and that came from Janney’s character launching a child at an ax-wielding clown. A physical gag to say the least, but her reaction made it work. But other than that…it was pretty bad.

    But as I said, I will stick with it. Why? Because actors like Perry, Janney and Anders deserve our support and have made us laugh enough that we owe it to them to give them a shot. Plus, I really do feel like Matthew Perry’s character might be a foreshadowing of my life to come (minus the elephants and clowns), so is suppose I should keep watching to see how I turn out.

    Overall Grade: C – (would be a D without the cast)

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