February 8, 2011

MR. SUNSHINE, OR: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TRY TO WRITE A SORKIN SHOW WITHOUT SORKIN


Full frontal confession (now there's an image that will likely scare little children), I love Matthew Perry. I have said it before, I'll say it again. But having said that I just watched his new show, Mr. Sunshine. And everything that can go wrong... has gone wrong with this show, taking the worst bits of Aaron Sorkin and missing out the good bits.

I don't want to go into a full analysis, but...

...I have rarely seen such a self-serving show that tries so hard to be funny and isn't. Matthew Perry has reverted to a mixture of Friends' Chandler and Matt from Studio 60, working that whole "I am detached but not really thing".

And the show looks and feels like it's filled with cast-offs of Sorkin shows, and that just... come on, Matthew. You should have known while putting this together that Allison Janney et at. will invite comparisons with both the West Wing and Studio 60, and let me tell you, if you are trying to go for rapid-fire dialogue, then at least go the whole nine yards (oh dear, I made a funny), because this here feels stuck somewhere between Studio 60 and a classical, bad working place sitcom. There is nothing there that brings you in as the audience, and the attempts at doing dialogue just...

... dear god, I have no idea where to start. Maybe with a scene with Allison Janney and you as you do a talk'n'drive (see? He learned from Thomas Schlamme and tried to "improve" on it, or perhaps merely improvise on it, no wait, it actually is Thomas Schlamme, but as I said while doing my analysis of Sorkin's strengths and weaknesses, you cannot take the structure and implement it on everything without regard to.... what was that again, kids? Ah yes, the stakes).

So, with that in mind, lets Sorkin the following scene up, okay?
PERRY
I need you to get back to the office. There's an elephant loose -

JANNEY
Oh. Okay - I need you to help me with that charity speech I'm supposed to give.

PERRY
- and you didn't hear a word that I have been saying, right?

JANNEY
I heard.

PERRY
You did.

JANNEY
I just choose to not care.

PERRY
You don't.

JANNEY
Is it in my room?

PERRY
What?

JANNEY
The elephant.

PERRY
Uh - no.

JANNEY
Then I don't see the need to address it.

PERRY
The elephant?

JANNEY
The issue. As opposed to that thing.

PERRY
The thing.

JANNEY
 The thing we should be discussing. The charity thing.

PERRY
Not the elephant?

JANNEY
The elephant is what you need to address.

PERRY
Why me?

JANNEY
Because that's what I pay you for.

PERRY
To hunt down elephants? Do I look like I hunt down elephants? I mean, do you see me carry a rifle? And a hat? It's an elephant! In San Diego. That's, like, a Steven Spielberg movie waiting to happen!

JANNEY
I think that was a dinosaur.

PERRY
What?

JANNEY
In Spielberg's movie. The whole thing? That was a dinosaur, not an elephant.

PERRY
What's the difference? They're both big! And on the loose!

JANNEY
An elephant won't eat you.

PERRY
How would you know?

JANNEY
I know.

PERRY
How? Have you ever been with an elephant? Ever seen them up close? Big! All I'm saying! Big and potentially angry. I mean, it was taken out of Africa and shipped here in a cage and work for peanuts - wouldn't you be angry? I know a whole part of the American people, still kind of pissed off about that when it happened to them.
JANNEY
Are we still talking about the elephant?

PERRY
Yea-huh.

JANNEY
Oh. Let's not, shall we?
And just to be clear. This? This up here is still not great. It's decent. And I pulled it out of my arse in less than two minutes. It infuses a little real world into a silly conversation, does a pop culture reference and shows that Janney's character really is off the rocker, and it sets up the whole "black and Asian children" thing that is about to come.

It still doesn't address the major issues with the show, which are that you don't care about any of those people, and that Janney is merely a female version of Alec Baldwin's character in 30 Rock, but for god's sake, Matt, at least try...