Review: Mr Sunshine 1×1

Matt Perry and Allison Janney entertain us as only they know how

Mr Sunshine

In the US: Wednesdays, 9.30/8.30c, ABC

Imagine there’s a heaven. More exactly, imagine there’s a TV heaven, a TV heaven where all your favourite actors can go to when their existing series end. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Well, ABC has found it and it’s called Mr Sunshine. It stars:

  • Matthew Perry! Chandler from Friends! Yey!
  • Allison Janney! CJ from The West Wing! Yey!
  • Andrea Anders! The woman who lived next door to Joey on Joey and was in that Better Off Ted thing! Yey!
  • Jorge Garcia! Hurley from Lost! Yey!

How awesome is that?

Of course, it would also be great if TV heaven was a good show as well. Fortunately, Mr Sunshine is actually a very good half hour of fun, in which Perry – the somewhat grumpy Mr Sunshine of the title – has to try to manage a San Diego sports centre, juggling the constant demands of his very sunny best friend, his often high boss (Janney) and his friend (with benefits) Andrea Anders.

Cue the trailer – just imagine it has Jorge Garcia instead of the old Latino guy instead.

Plot
Matthew Perry stars as Ben Donovan, the general manager of the Sunshine Center, who every night navigates a never-ending series of bizarre requests, curious mishaps and employee screw ups to put on a show for 18,000 screaming people.

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.

“Mr. Sunshine” stars Matthew Perry (“Friends”) as Ben, Allison Janney (“The West Wing”) as Crystal, Andrea Anders as Alice, James Lesure as Alonzo and Nate Torrence as Roman.

Is it any good?
Largely, yes. There are a few gag misfires, the standard US TV attitude to male-female relationships is in effect (a woman may say she just wants things to be casual, but she always, always wants just to settle down with the right guy) and there’s a slightly saccharine “let’s learn a valuable lesson about life and being nice to each other” taste to it, but it’s sharply written, has a great cast and some great moments.

Matthew Perry is the star (as well as an exec producer and writer) and his character is the focus, and Perry is as faultlessly funny as he was in Friends. He even brings a few of his more popular mannerisms in the show, just for nostalgia’s sake. His character is a little off-the-shelf, but I expect over time we’ll get more nuance to him.

Generously, Perry is frequently the comic foil to the other characters, rather than the absolute centre of the piece, with Allison Janney getting by far the best moments (clown fear, child hurling, racist song singing) to work with, as well as some of the best lines. The supporting cast also get treated well, with James Lesure’s Alonzo raising laughs through the strange, unheard of mechanism of being incredibly nice and positive. Anders gets more or less the same gig as she’s had in every other show she’s been in (attractive good girl possible love interest but without much by way of character development), but still manages to do good some good things with it.

It’s an accomplished half hour of slick, non-edgy comedy that’s worth tuning in for and will probably last a good few seasons.