Sunday, January 25, 2009
Not mad about "Trust Me"
It's hard to talk about TNT's new drama "Trust Me," which debuts Monday at 10 p.m., without also mentioning AMC's brilliant Emmy-winning drama "Mad Men." After all, both shows are about the advertising industry, even though "Trust Me" focuses on modern-day advertising, whereas "Mad Men" is set in the early 1960s. And both shows deal heavily with office politics and discuss, at least to some degree, the sacrifices one has to make to get ahead in business.
But despite these surface similarities, "Trust Me" and "Mad Men" have about as much in common as hamburger and filet mignon. Sure, they have similar ingredients, but there's a noticeable gap in class and quality.
That's not to say "Trust Me" is bad, necessarily. It's just not as polished, smart, or well-written as "Mad Men." But "Trust Me" has its moments, particularly in the second episode released to the press. And it certainly has a likable pair of leading men in TV vets Eric McCormack ("Will & Grace") and Tom Cavanagh ("Ed"). The two play best friends and partners at a Chicago ad agency. Mason (McCormack) is the responsible one and Conner (Cavanagh) is the wacky creative genius. When Mason gets an unexpected promotion, it causes tension in their bromance. Also complicating matters at their firm is the threat of losing a major account, and the arrival of a talented but obnoxious copy writer (Monica Potter) who clearly has some sort of past with Mason.
The cast is impressive, and also includes Sarah Clarke (Nina Meyers from "24") as Mason's understanding wife, and character actor Griffin Dunne as Conner and Mason's boss. Cavanagh and McCormack make a good onscreen team, with Cavanagh's manic energy bouncing off of McCormack, one of the most sly straight men on TV. I like watching them together, and they both give the show their all.
But good acting can only get you so far. You also have to have strong writing, and this is where "Trust Me" falters, particularly in its pilot. The supporting characters come off as too shrill and silly, particularly Potter's. In the episodes I saw, I got no evidence that this woman was a brilliant copy writer. Her one presentation kind of stinks, and she openly admits a complete inability to write about shampoo. In fact, for a show that's supposed to be about dynamic creative types, the dialogue on "Trust Me" is pretty bland. I counted exactly one memorable line, the same one that's been replayed over and over already in the show's commercials. It's when Cavanagh's Conner claims that he's been carrying McCormack's Mason and Mason retorts "I've been carrying YOU so long, I've got scoliosis!"
The second episode I watched is a little funnier, and holds together fairly well. But, unfortunately for "Trust Me," it's hard to watch it without comparing it to that other, much better, show about advertising. And that's where it suffers. Fans of "Mad Men" will likely take one look at "Trust Me" and snort in disgust. That isn't really fair. In fact, judged on its own merits, "Trust Me" is solidly OK -- not a must-watch, but a perfectly fine show to veg in front of after a rough Monday.
"Trust Me" debuts 10 p.m. Monday on TNT.