Forecast for Mr. Sunshine: Partly Cloudy

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I don't want to declare Mr. Sunshine a failure, mainly because Matthew Perry is working so hard (both in front of and behind the camera—he's a co-creator) to make us like it/him, that to write it off completely based on the pilot would be the equivalent of kneeing Chandler Bing in the nads. And nobody wants to do that. So let's put it this way: If we're judging Mr. Sunshine based purely on a delivered-laughs-per-minute ratio, then there is definitely room for improvement.

Taking a cue from its Pollyanna-ish (if sarcastic) title, then, let's look at the bright side and focus on what we do have in Mr. Sunshine. For starters, we have Matthew Perry. He plays Ben Donovan, the manager of a sports arena in San Diego who comes off like a far less sensitive and emotionally needy Chandler Bing, dumped unceremoniously into the rough of middle-age. That character is a pretty appealing anchor for any show. (The ratings prove that: It drew 10.6 million viewers, making it ABC's highest-rated new series premiere.)

We meet Ben on his 40th birthday, looking a little worse for the wear. Ben has a limited skill-set for dealing with stress, and—surprise!—moves within a work environment that produces nothing but the stuff. There's his boss, arena owner Crystal Cohen, who's a clueless, self-absorbed, prescription drug addict. Despite Allison Janney's best efforts, the character comes across as stock and underwritten. Crystal's chubby, adult son (Nate Torrence), a learning-disabled (I think?) people-pleaser, gets dumped in Ben's lap early in the episode. He's the show's designated dope, and Torrence pushes hard with the lines he's given to mine sympathetic laughs. He just never quite achieves the idiotic alchemy of 30 Rock's Kenneth the Page or Parks & Recreation's Andy Dwyer.

Marketing director Alice (Better Off Ted's Andrea Anders) is Ben's romantic foil, and can stay quiet no longer about their friends-with-benefits arrangement. Lost's Jorge Garcia pops up in a thankless role as a maintenance engineer whose name Ben can't remember, despite the two of them having worked together for several years. Finally, there's co-worker Alonzo (James Lesure, formerly of Las Vegas). The zen-ying to Ben's harried-yang, Alonzo only sees the bright side to life—despite, as Ben callously reminds him, having missed a crucial throw that tanked his pro-basketball career, ultimately losing the city their team.

I actually thought this show was going to focus on the world of spectator sports, from the fresh point of view of the people whose job it is to cater to the pro-athletes and rowdy fans who pass through its battledomes. So I'm not sure why they chose to focus on a traveling circus for the show's silly inaugural plot. Let's hope that future episodes do a better job at mining a good premise.

And as for Ben, well, I think we can all see the redemptive path ahead. Will he stop trying to get Alonzo to admit that it sucks being a social pariah? Will he learn Hurley's name? Will he commit to Alice? Will he finally become a nice guy? Could it BE any more obvious?

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