Tuesday, February 08, 2011

ABC Mid-Season Pilot Review: Mr. Sunshine - Premieres Feb. 9; Hallmark Acquires Frasier, Lifetime Loses Frasier

Better With You

Mr. Sunshine - Wednesdays 9:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 9:30PM ET/PT

Matthew Perry stars as Ben Donovan, a self-involved manager of a San Diego sports arena, the Sunshine Center, where curious mishaps and bizarre requests are nothing more than ordinary. Working alongside him is his boss and arena owner Crystal, attractive, powerful and highly erratic; Alice, the cute, tomboyish marketing director and Ben's friend with benefits; Alonzo, a former basketball player, handsome and unbelievably happy; Ben's assistant, Heather, pretty, sweet, but terrifying because she once lit a boyfriend on fire; and Crystal's son, Roman, sweet-faced, clueless and Ben's newest employee.


Cast Details:

* Matthew Perry as Ben
* Allison Janney as Crystal
* Andrea Anders as Alice
* James Lesure as Andy
* Nate Torrence as Roman
* Portia Doubleday as Heather

Matthew Perry (Ben) is the manager of operations at the Sunshine Center. His worldwide audience will be happy to know he is returning to series television as the star, co-writer and executive producer of Mr. Sunshine. Perry is perhaps best known for his Emmy-nominated role as Chandler Bing on Friends, and has shown his diverse talents in a range of projects since the series concluded after ten years. In 2006 Perry returned to series television to star in Aaron Sorkin's NBC drama, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, in a role that was written for him. Earlier, in 2005, he took his talents to the athletic arena as he hosted the 2005 ESPY Awards. The broadcast earned the highest rating in the 12-year history of the ESPYs. He also received an Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Joe Quincy on The West Wing.

Allison Janney (Crystal) is the owner of the arena and the big boss. Displaying astonishing versatility with a wide range of roles in film, television and theater, Allison Janney has taken her place among a select group of actors who combine a leading lady's profile with a character actor's art of performance. Fans will remember her starring role as CJ Cregg in the award-winning NBC series, The West Wing, for which Janney won a remarkable four SAG and four Emmy Awards. She recently guest starred on ABC's LOST as a pivotal character in the mythlogy of the series. She has also appeared in many movies. She starred opposite Meryl Streep in The Hours, which received a SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture. Other credits include the Academy Award-winning films American Beauty (for which she won a SAG Award for Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture), Finding Nemo, Over the Hedge, Our Very Own, Strangers with Candy, Nurse Betty, How to Deal, Drop Dead Gorgeous, 10 Things I Hate About You, Primary Colors, The Ice Storm, Six Days Seven Nights, The Object of My Affection and Big Night.

Andrea Anders (Alice) is the marketing director for the Sunshine Center. Andrea most recently starred in ABC's critically acclaimed series Better Off Ted, and is known to television audiences for her roles as Nicole Allen on the sitcom The Class and as Alex Garrett in the Friends spin-off series Joey, opposite Matt LeBlanc. Additional television credits include guest starring on Law & Order, Tru Calling, Oz, Numb3rs and appearances on the daytime dramas Guiding Light and One Life to Live. Feature film credits include the road comedy Sex Drive and The Stepford Wives. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (from University of Wisconsin) and a Master of Fine Arts degree (from Rutgers).

James Lesure (Alonzo) plays a former basketball player and friend to Ben. James gives new meaning to the term Hollywood Hunk. His magnetic charm, both on screen and stage, complement a firmly grounded personality. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of the suave, competitive head of surveillance, Mike Cannon, on the hit series Las Vegas, opposite legendary actor James Caan. Lesure made his series debut on the comedy For Your Love as attorney Mel Ellis, co-starring actress Holly Robinson-Peete. He has also appeared in recurring roles on the hits The New Adventures of Old Christine, Lipstick Jungle, The Division and Alias. Other television credits include guest-starring roles on ABC's LOST, Sherri, Seinfeld and a notable turn as a resolute military officer on the acclaimed series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which of course starred Matthew Perry.

Nate Torrence (Roman) plays Crystal's son and he is looking for work at the arena. Torrence began breaking into television with guest star appearances on several shows, including Malcolm in the Middle, How I Met Your Mother, House and many more. In 2006 he landed the recurring role of Dylan Killington on NBC's critically acclaimed Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, opposite Mr. Sunshine star Matthew Perry. Film appearances include Get Smart, Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control, My Best Friend's Girl and a major role in the Dreamworks comedy She's Out of My League. He is a master of improv and still finds time to perform sketch/improv shows in area theaters, including at The Second City Theater in Los Angeles.


Pilot Plot:

#1 "Pilot" (Airs February 9, 2011)
On what would have been just a typical day at work -- trying to get rid of a hockey rink that won't melt so the circus can go on that night, looking for an elephant lost in the building and arranging an impromptu press conference to repair one of his boss's PR nightmares -- Alice ends her casual relationship with Ben to commit to another man. This happens on Ben's 40th birthday, just as he's realizing he doesn't want to be alone.

Recurring is Portia Doubleday as Heather. Guest starring are Jorge Garcia as Bobert and David Pressman as mascot. Co-starring Christopher Shea as Dan, Declan Beaty as kid, Jesse Bean as guy, Eric Winzenried as photographer, Harvey Ruffin III as executive, Rico Bueno as worker #1, Alejandro Patino as worker #2, Sam Brown as worker #3, Gene DeJoie as worker #4 and Peter Navy Tuiasosop as worker #5.
"Pilot" was written by Matthew Perry, Alex Barnow and Marc Firek and directed by Thomas Schlamme.


Analysis:

This pilot and the premise of the series in general is very unique. I'm surprised there has never been a comedy fully set at a sports arena and looking at the day-to-day operations of it. The pilot sets things up well. That is what a pilot episode should do. Usually the pilot episode is not the strongest episode, but it should catch the viewer's attention. And that's what this one does here. It is a single camera half-hour comedy starring Matthew Perry. Perry's character plays Ben, head of operations for an arena in San Diego called The Sunshine Center (actually filmed at the Forum in Los Angeles). He is the one who schedules everything and well does pretty much everything for the arena. They've got hockey games, rock concerts, the circus, lingerie football, dog shows and more...but lots can go wrong at any of these events and that is what this comedy will explore. Ben says San Diego lost their basketball team to Cincinnati because of something Alonzo did, so not sure if we'll see some basketball here.

Janney's character, Crystal, is the owner of the arena and is extremely eccentric, as proved when she makes up a hilarious song: "the blacks, the whites, the Asians and the Himalayans, too." That made me laugh...she seems to be a racist but doesn't know it. The entire team at the arena is pretty dysfunctional. The pilot has Ben turning 40 and he is sleeping with the marketing director of the arena, Alice. However, Alice is calling their "friends with benefits" relationship off. Ben doesn't seem to mind at first until he later finds out that she is about to start an actual relationship with his best friend, Alonzo, who used to be a basketball player and now works for the arena. Nothing gets Alonzo down, he is your Mr. Sunshine type of guy. Ben is not a very nice guy, but he shows signs of some humanity as we progress. The title of this comedy is Mr. Sunshine, but Ben is from that. The title is really a play at the arena name, since Ben is in charge of everything at the arena. It's a clever play at the title. Among the good things we see from Ben is trying to give Crystal's son Roman a job in the arena. He has no skills and is very strange and his mother doesn't seem to care much about him. It will be interesting to see if Ben can make something of Roman in future episodes. Ben is also trying to be more friendly to his staff, as we see in the pilot episode with the head of maintenance (played by Jorge Garcia) as Ben is trying to be more friendly towards him. But is his name really "Bobert?" Ben also has a new assistant named Heather and she is also very strange, setting people on fire in her past and now also oddly being attracted to Roman.

There are some funny bits in the pilot, but it isn't quite there yet. It has a ton of potential and I could see this comedy turning into the style ABC had with Better Off Ted, except this will be more mainstream and will have more appeal to everyone as it is set in an arena (rather than a research & development company). So my overall feeling is: it's a good set-up with much more to come.


Conclusion:

The series will be following the #1 comedy on television, Modern Family, so it will be certainly sampled. That is a good thing because this show has so much potential. It has a great setting and a great cast. It will be interesting to see how much Ben can better himself as a person as the series progresses. There should be a lot of hilarious challenges on the way. The cast isn't too big, so we will be invested in the characters immediately. One thing I found funny was when Jorge Garcia's character says Ben, as we saw Garcia's character say that name all the time on Lost (Ben Linus). That is a nice homage to Lost, I think, but probably just coincidental here. Garcia will be in a few episodes in this series.

I think the characters are all good and it will be fun to see them develop. If this comedy is even half of what Better Off Ted was, then it should be in good shape in terms of quality. Matthew Perry is good here. He may be unlikeable but you can tell he is trying to "better" himself and I think the show will get better and better, too. Andrea Anders is really stunning and Allison Janney will probably be nominated for many Emmy's for this role, I predict. You don't have to like sports to like this comedy. Events in arenas are more than just sporting events, as I'm sure you all know. Nick Jonas will be guest starring in week two as a singer. Tune in Wednesday at 9:30pm on ABC for some good arena fun because the arena staff might be dysfunctional, but that makes for good TV!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

-- Reviewed by Pavan on 02/08/11

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, February 9 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Mr. Sunshine Photo Gallery

    Preview:



    As we briefly mentioned yesterday, Frasier is coming to Hallmark in April 2011! Hallmark Channel has acquired all eleven seasons and all 264 episodes of Frasier from CBS Television Distribution. Frasier, one of the most critically-acclaimed comedy series of all-time and one of television's most successful spin-off series ever will launch on Monday, April 4, airing Monday-Friday from 9:00-11:00 pm ET/PT. This means, Cheers and Frasier will now be reunited on one network, Hallmark Channel. Frasier, a spin-off of Cheers set in Seattle, starring Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin and beloved Jack Russell Terrier "Eddie," holds the record for the most Emmy wins (37), including five consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series from 1994 to 1998.
    Currently, Lifetime is airing Frasier but Lifetime will be losing the rights to the series next month. Frasier has been airing on Lifetime since March, 2006. Frasier airs weekdays 9-10am and 12am-1:30am, but starting Monday, March 7, Lifetime will move up Old Christine to 9am-10:30am from its current 10am-11:30am slot, then How I Met Your Mother moves from 11:30am to 10:30am. And the 11am hour will now have an extra Wife Swap leading into another episode at 12 noon. 1-4pm will remain as is with Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, but now 4pm will be the series American Justice, pushing Unsolved Mysteries to 5pm & 6pm. Old Christine will no longer be in the 6pm hour and another hour of Reba is added in the 7pm hour replacing How I Met Your Mother. In primetime, Reba remains in the 8pm hour. Movies/originals air from 9-11pm. In late nights, How I Met Your Mother remains in the 11pm hour, but replacing Frasier from 12am-1:30am will be an episode of Old Christine and two episodes of Will & Grace. And two more episodes of How I Met Your Mother will now air at 1:30am & 2:00am replacing Will & Grace -- all starting Monday, March 7.
    View the FULL Lifetime March 2011 schedule and come on back for more on Hallmark Channel's schedule in March (with the addition of Empty Nest) and April (with the addition of Frasier) when it is announced.


  • New on DVD/Blu-ray (January/February)

    I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized) The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two Hooperman - Season One 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek) Fuller House - The Complete First Season

    01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
    01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
    01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
    01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
    01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
    01/24 - Hooperman - Season One / Review
    01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two / Review
    01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
    02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
    02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
    02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
    02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
    02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
    02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
    02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
    02/28 - Fuller House - The Complete First Season
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Wednesday, February 22

    The Goldbergs - "So Swayze It's Crazy" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    After Adam sees his friend on television, he asks Beverly for her help to become an actor, so Beverly enlists his friend’s mom Edie, who is a kid talent agent in town. Unfortunately, Edie insists Adam can only get “nerd” roles, so Beverly goes on a quest to make Adam a teenage heartthrob. Meanwhile, Barry decides to embrace the punk lifestyle, and Murray attempts to become more involved in Erica’s life, but it backfires.

    Speechless - "O-S-- OSCAR P-A-- PARTY" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    When the Dimeos throw their annual Oscar party with other special-needs families, Maya feels threatened by new mom Becca, who seems a little too perfect.  Meanwhile, Jimmy encourages the fathers at the party to let loose while Ray tries to impress a girl by pretending to be someone he is not.

    Modern Family - "Heavy Is the Head" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Despite their lofty hopes, Phil and Jay’s property investment might turn out to be a bust, forcing Phil to rethink his original dream. Meanwhile, Cam lands in the hospital due to a head injury and refuses to have an MRI thanks to a traumatic incident with a well when he was a child. Determined to finally impress Claire and keep her from re-gifting her birthday present, Gloria surprises her with a day of luxury at the office. However, after Claire had to implement some rather harsh budget cuts at work, a massage at her desk may not be sending the right message.

    black-ish - "One Angry Man" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    Dre is forced to participate in jury duty after Junior responds to the summons that was thrown away. The case is supposed to be open and shut, but when Dre sees that the defendant is a young African American, he feels a civic responsibility to give him a fair trial. Meanwhile, Bow decides to let the kids swear in the house since they are more open with her that way, but she and Ruby soon regret the decision.

    It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - "The Gang Tends Bar" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    It's Valentine's Day and Paddy's is packed with customers. Dennis implores the gang to do one day of actual work but everyone else is distracted by a mystery crate Cricket spotted in the alley. Eventually, the gang becomes convinced Dennis really wants them to work on their relationships and everyone shares their grievances without much resolution.

    Man Seeking Woman - "Dolphin" (FXX, 10:30PM ET/PT)
    When her mom becomes obsessed with Josh's wedding, Liz seeks out her estranged father (Peter Gallagher).

    Schitt's Creek - "General Store" (Pop, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    David comes up with a new business venture; Alexis adjusts to her first day of school.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 20)

    Wednesday, February 22

    • Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) and George Clooney (The Facts of Life/Roseanne) - Tom and George are guests on a repeat of the 2012 Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars special at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Ariana Grande (Sam & Cat) - Ariana drops by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
    • Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken/Community) - Ken visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
    • Kelly Ripa (Hope & Faith) - Kelly is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)- Billy appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on the AOL Build Show at 11am.
    • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He also talks about Ultimate Beastmaster on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on the AOL Build Show at 2pm.
    • Ron Funches (Powerless/Undateable) - Ron is a guest on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Demi appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • NeNe Leakes (The New Normal) - NeNe guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
    • Matt Shively (The Real O'Neals/True Jackson, VP) - Matt is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Justin Bartha (The New Normal) - Justin joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
    • Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Wendi will be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth/The Cleveland Show) - Will talks about The Last Man on Earth on NBC's Today in the 10am hour. He will also be on Good Day New York on WNYW-Fox5 in New York sometime between 7-10am.
    • Rosie Perez (Search Party) - Rosie is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • Allison Williams (Girls) - Allison appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
    • Yvette Nicole Brown (The Odd Couple/Community) - Yvette dishes about the new season of SuperMansion on Crackle on The Wendy Williams Show at 2am on BET or on your local stations.
    • Mike Epps (Uncle Buck/Survivor's Remorse) - Mike is a guest on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
    • Eva Longoria (Telenovela) - Eva chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • Mark Consuelos (Hope & Faith) - Mark guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.