9
Feb
2011
Mr. Sunshine: Season 1, Episode 1
Pilot
Jordan
Every time I write about a pilot I say the same thing. Pilots are really difficult to pull off well. There's a lot of exposition to deal with, the writing staff is usually not even formed yet (often pilots are just written by the creator before it is sold to a network, and therefore no other writers are around to bounce ideas off of), the actors haven't developed a lived in chemistry and the jokes can come off as a little rote. Because in a pilot, every character is by necessity fairly one-dimensional, especially in an ensemble like Mr. Sunshine. So, as I so often say, a pilot usually doesn't put the show's best foot forward.

Which is also the case for Mr. Sunshine. This is a show that almost can't be bad. Headlined and created by Matthew Perry (the best part of Friends and even better on Studio 60), and co-starring Allison Janney (always a class act, and hilariously awesome across the board) and Nate Torrence (also of Studio 60), with an incredibly flexible premise, this should be a home run of a sitcom. The show follows Ben (Perry), the manager of an arena in San Diego that caters to all sorts of events (the better to fill with sitcom zaniness) and all of his coworkers, including his crazy boss (Janney), her awkward son (Torrence), the woman he's been sleeping with (Andrea Anders) and the man she's leaving him for, the incredibly optimistic Alonzo (James Lesure), as well as Ben's possibly psychotic secretary (Portia Doubleday). This is a solid cast, and a potentially excellent set up for a sitcom.

But much of this pilot feels empty, flat, and pretty lifeless. Its almost as if in the hurry to get through all of the exposition, the show forgot it was also supposed to be funny. It has the elements of comedy, especially in Janney's manic performance as an insane, drug addled rich lady who owns the arena, and when it tries for jokes, they often land, but a lot of the pilot runs by without any real laughter. Additionally, some of the characters seem problematic fro mthe start, particularly Alonzo, who seems to be the "positive" character, and seems to have nothing else. Alonzo doesn't say anything that even resembles a joke in the pilot; he just says nice, positive things. Perhaps this is supposed to play off of Perry's cynical assholishness, but it mostly just sits there, silently, and without laughter.

The pilot also seems to be setting up a will-they-won't-they between Ben and Alice (Anders), who ends the episode moving in with Alonzo instead of him, but it doesn't spend enough time with Alice to make her into a character worth Ben's sudden, life changing ardor. Most shows start off with a will-they-won't-they set up, especially the "redemption narrative" (the show that sets up its lead character as an asshole who needs to become a better person to win the woman of his dreams), which Mr. Sunshine almost certainly is, but this one either needs to find a way to become interesting or disappear entirely (a show that started out with the redemption narrative will-they-won't -they and largely dropped it, to its great improvement, is Community, which Mr. Sunshine could learn a lot from). At the end of the day, this is not a very good pilot. But it is a show with a large amount of promise. So much promise, that I still can't fathom how it won't turn it all around and get much better in the weeks to come. On the strength of this pilot, I can't recommend Mr. Sunshine, but knowing this is just the pilot, and believing, as I do that things will get better, I would suggest that if you see the same hints of potential that I do, you stick around and give the show a few weeks to grow and develop. It may surprise us.

Grade: C

Notes:

-I really like the short, sweet, and funny theme song.

-"I dont think you should open with 'Yay black kids.'" "Well when should I say it?"

-"Alonzo? He's my best friend!" "You hate Alonzo." "I do hate Alonzo."

-"Rainbow Connection" is a REALLY good song.

-I will be continuing to watch Mr. Sunshine for at least a few weeks, hoping to watch it grow and improve. If you want me to continue reviewing it here on a weekly basis, let me know.
Tags: Mr. Sunshine
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