Thursday, February 12, 2009

Never Judge a Show by its Pilot: Trust Me.

Well, it's been a while since I wrote a "Never Judge a Show by its Pilot" segment. We had a lackluster fall (FALL 2007 Part II) where the only interesting on TV then was the Election 2008 coverage. It is not my intention to make that statement political, I'm just saying that the election coverage was the only thing that I wanted to watch live as it happened. Everything else could be programmed on my DVR and watched at a later time. Ask yourselves dear readers "Are there any scripted shows that you just have to watch when they are being broadcast?" Now before I go further on this tangent, let us foccuss on the show in question.

First Impressions of Trust Me:
If you told me a few years ago that TNT was going to do a drama about the fast pace world of advertising, I would ask, "Why?" Advertising is something that characters like Darrin Stephens (Bewitchd) or Jamie Buchman (Mad About You) did, but those shows were not based around that world. I can not think of one successful TV show that centered on the world of advertising except Mad Men. Speaking of Mad Men... If you told me a few years ago that AMC was going to do a 1960's era drama about the fast pace world of advertising, I would ask, "Why? I keep hearing from network television industry professionals that nobody wants to see a peroid piece on TV". Nice to see the cable channels think outside the box. It seems that the cable channels are becoming the home to scripted dramas and the networks will be the home to sitcoms and other stuff. Trust Me is a drama that stars two talented actors who are known for comedy Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed) and was created by the team that brought you The Closer (a crime drama) and Nip/Tuck (a medical drama). With all that I am expecting smart humor, drama, sex/T&A and action. Where Mad Men’s key ingredient is nostalgia, TNT is claiming that the friendship of the two main characters Mason McGuire (McCormack) and Conner (Cavanagh) will draw an audience. The TNT web site says, "Their yin-yang relationship is put to the test when Mason is named a creative director of the agency, making him Conner's boss. The series follows the changing dynamics between the two friends, who are better together than they are apart". Let me watch the show and see if it lives up to the hype.

I watched the pilot and I found the the show to be very diferent from Mad Men. The show did have elements that remended me of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip except I really liked Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (CHILD OF TELEVISION: Never Judge a Show by its Pilot: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). The pilot does center on Mason being named a creative director of the agency after the current creative director Stu Hoffman (Jason O'Mara) dies of a heart attack. Both Mason and Connor have trouble adjusting to the new pecking order. The episode ends with Mason creating a cell phone ad campaign on the spot with Connor sending the tag line "What can you do with one hand?" via text message. The characters are smart, they have humor but I see did not any drama, sex/T&A or action. The chemestry between Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh was great. In fact I'd say that the entire cast did the best they could with the material they had. Like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip we see the behind the scenes operations of an industry that most Americans don't identify with or care about. After all how can they feel any sympathy for people whose job it is to get working people in this economy to buy stuff that they don't need and can't afford? The show is a perfect example why there has never been any successful TV shows that center on the world of advertising except Mad Men. Perhaps the idea for this show was hatched when our economy was diferent. Perhaps I'm overthinking all of this. Perhaps I should never judge a show by its pilot.

I watched the next episode. The big crisis here is that a focus group thought that the tag line "What can you do with one hand?" was about masturbation and the team has to come up with a new tag line by the end of the day. Their deadline gets moved before the team was ready and when Mason calls Connor who is having sex. Connor comes up with the tag line "Do Thumb Thing" (Sounds like "Do Something" with a lisp). Mason later realises that Connor subconsiously stole "Do Thumb Thing" from an egotistical 26-year-old perspective employee's portfolio. Our heroes now have to infultrate a focus group and make them hate the new tag line. The premise reminds me of an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip that centered on an alleged-stolen joke.

Even though this type of TV drama is escapist the audience still has to connect with the characters and the plot. They need be able to cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. I can’t see that the viewers will have any emotional investment in the show. I’m starting to think that TNT doesn’t really know drama. I have an idea on how to save this show. Heres the pitch. We keep the talented cast, change the format to a half hour sitcom, add a Larry Tate type character (I like Larry Miller) and have Tina Fey write and produce.

To quote the tag-line from a cell phone campaign in the pilot, "What can you do with one hand?" My answer is give the show a thumbs down.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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