ABC’s much hyped sitcom, “Mr. Sunshine,” debuted Wednesday, and more than anything else, it made me miss “Cougar Town.”
Matthew Perry stars in the new series as the manager of a sports arena in San Diego who’s going through a sort of midlife crisis, playing a character who’s a slightly more bitter and cynical version of the role than made Perry a bazillionaire — Chandler from “Friends.” So it’s not a huge stretch. Allison Janney (“West Wing”) is in full cartoon mode, co-starring as his unhinged and unstable boss (picture CJ on speed and antidepressants). And Andrea Anders plays Perry’s more stable co-worker and friend with benefits, basically reprising her role on “Better Off Ted,” only not as interesting. None of the characters seem particularly nice — even Anders’ character is sleeping around behind her boyfriend’s back after he’s asked her to move in with him. Without likable characters, what’s the point of watching?
Actually, there was one instantly likable guy, a janitor played by Jorge Garcia (Hurley from “Lost”), but he only had a couple of lines and the role seemed pretty disposable.
I didn’t hate “Mr. Sunshine,” but it didn’t make me laugh either. (Well, the clowns with axes was kinda funny. It didn’t make me laugh out loud, let’s put it that way.) It seems torn between whether it wants to be a dark, cynical show about a misanthrope — sort of along the lines of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — or a wacky workplace comedy, like “Better Off Ted.” And is it supposed to be a Matthew Perry vehicle, or an ensemble comedy? I didn’t get a very strong impression of what the series wants to be. By being all of the above/none of the above, it’s kinda a mess.
The series seems to be an odd addition to ABC’s lineup. The other shows preceding it — “Modern Family,” “The Middle” and “Better With You” — are all kinda bright, upbeat family-oriented comedies. “Cougar Town” — which “Mr. Sunshine” has bumped from Wednesday nights until April — has developed nicely into that theme, with the cul-de-sac friends operating as a de facto family. But “Mr. Sunshine” just doesn’t fit that mold or that comedic tone, and it sticks out in a jarring way.
Then again, this was only the first episode, and shows can certainly improve once the characters develop and the storyline gets going (see: “Cougar Town” and “Parks and Recreation”). I’m willing to give “Mr. Sunshine” another few weeks to see if it can find an identity. And hopefully a few more laughs.
What’d you think? Are you holding out hope for it, or will you be watching something else next week?