Matthew Perry’s Sunny TV Return!

Mr. Sunshine Review

Matthew Perry just has a really likable quality, whether as Chandler, the verbose Matt Albie from Studio 60 or now as Ben Donovan, the neurotic, sarcastic, bitchy and yes; very likable new anchor of ABC’s Mr. Sunshine.

The series which Perry co-created, focuses on Donovan, the manager of a 2nd tier sports arena in San Diego and the mid-life crisis that starts (as the series does) on his 40th birthday. It’s the right role at the right time for Perry, who’s perfect in his niche, but still manages to make Ben a different entity than his past characters; he’s more bitter, more alone and probably funnier because of it.

The rest of the cast is filled out mostly by seasoned vets who feel right at home. Andrea Anders, who’s a veteran of at least three cancelled sitcoms I can think of off the top of my head (Joey, The Class, and the amazing Better Off Ted) is playing a less wacky version of Linda Zwordling from Better Off Ted. She was good in the pilot, but I’m hoping that as the series progresses they’ll make good use of Ander’s considerable comic talent. James Lesure (Las Vegas) plays an ex-basketball star with an incredibly sunny disposition – he’s also Perry’s romantic rival for Ander’s character, Nate Torrence (Studio 60, Get Smart) plays the dim estranged son of the arena’s owner and Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt) plays Perry’s assistant, who doesn’t get that much airtime in the pilot. And finally Alison Janney plays Crystal Cohen, the arena’s owner and Ben’s boss. She’s a pill popping, alcoholic racist – a more oblivious and indifferent Lucille Bluth. Her vices are played hard in the pilot, a little too hard if you ask me, to the point where she’s almost a caricature – but this is just the pilot and unlike Lucille we also saw some compassion. I think I trust a skilled actress like Janney to make Cohen as layered as possible. Oh and Jorge Garcia is in the pilot too! JORGE GAR-FRIKKIN’-CIA!

(Small World Note: exec producer Thomas Schlamme, Perry, Torrence, Lesure all worked on Studio 60, and Janney and worked with Schlamme and guest star Perry on the West Wing. Anders starred on the Friends spin-off Joey and is currently dating her ex-costar and Perry’s too, Matt LeBlanc.)

What’s good? The setting, it’ll allow for some real diverse episodes in the same way Starz’s Party Down did. The pacing of the pilot is really brisk as well, you felt as if you got a lot done in those 22 minutes. Perry’s return to comedic form (much like Cox in Sunshine’s timeslot/time share buddy Cougar Town (which returns after Mr. Sunshine’s run on April 18th). The series itself has a more 30 Rock than Cougar Town vibe in it’s zaniness, but is more Cougar in it’s sweet side, which does exist.

What’s not so good? Characters that seem based around a single trait, Lesure is over optimistic, and Janney is a louse. Part of me has a feeling these traits were over emphasized in the pilot to establish character and will be toned down in the future.

Final Say: Pretty funny pilot, with the right ingredients and a lot of potential to be amazing.

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