Tuesday, February 8, 2011
'Mr. Sunshine' a bit brighter than it used to be
When I saw the original pilot for ABC's sitcom "Mr. Sunshine" back in the summer, I was deeply mixed on it.
Though I generally like Matthew Perry, I found him to bit a bit too Matthew Perry on the show. I mean, you know those episodes of "Friends" when Chandler was so sarcastic and cynical that you just wanted Monica to slug him? Multiply that by ten. Whereas you sensed a vulnerable core under Chandler's douchie-ness, Perry's "Mr. Sunshine" character seemed to be all douche. He lashed out at everyone and said a kind word to no one. He was also unbearably broad, flailing his arms and bugging his eyes to an insane level.
That was too bad, because there was a lot of the show I liked, including Allison Janney's hilarious performance as Perry's wacky boss and Andrea Anders as his sweet, sensible love interest.
Thankfully, the new pilot, which premieres Wednesday at 9:30 p.m., is much, much better. Perry's character, Ben, has been toned down and evened out to the point where he feels like an actual human being. He's still a cranky commitment phobe, but he's not as cartoonishly snide as he was before. We see that he really cares about his job managing a crumbling events center, and that he has a decent heart under all that snark.
The result is a smoother show with a main character I actually feel comfortable rooting for. Plus, the effortlessly likable Jorge Garcia has been added to the cast (at least temporarily) as a beleaguered janitor. So yay for that.
As for the rest of the show, the stuff I liked about the original pilot has, thankfully, been relatively unchanged. Janney's Crystal is still a complete hoot as a pill-popping rich lady who says things like "I'm crazy high right now," sings racist songs and fears clowns. Anders is still sweet and winning. And Nate Torrence, as Janney's goofy son, has an infectious enthusiasm and sweetness.
I still am not sure I'd watch it every week. I find the stuff with the sports arena a bit too silly and on the nose (there's a scene with axe-wielding clowns. Need I say more?), and Perry's character still needs to grow a few layers. But it's getting there.