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TV Review: Mr. Sunshine – “Hostile Workplace”

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It seems that not too many people are watching ABC’s Mr. Sunshine. I find that very disappointing, because it’s a kooky, fun show that deserves a little love. It has a humor not unlike the too-soon canceled Better Off Ted, but with a central character who doesn’t try so hard to please. In fact, when he can get away with it, he doesn’t try at all. Plus, its supporting cast boasts huge talent. While the series is still searching for its footing, each episode has had me laughing, and it deserves more time to figure things out.

Last night, Ben (Matthew Perry) can’t get the air conditioning fixed in the arena because the entire staff hates him. With good reason. He can’t even remember any of their names! So Roman (Nate Torrence) makes Ben flashcards of everyone and suggests a clever trick to help with the memorization, a rare stroke of good sense from the demented boss’s son. Ben takes Roman’s idea and plays it a little too mean, writing insults on each card that he can use to remember their names. It works, and he is soon friends with everyone… until Roman accidentally scatters the cards all over the arena floor.

Is it realistic that Ben can get everyone to like him so quickly after being despised for so long? Of course not. And Roman dropping the cards in a public place is easy to see coming from a mile away. But Ben’s delight in his delusion, and the realization that Roman is his only friend at work, are glimmers of something great brewing beneath the surface. I want to see more of Ben finding out things about himself, and genuinely trying to improve. I want to see more of Roman being useful and integral to the plot, rather than just a dumb stooge.

And any more Jorge Garcia you want to me toss my way, I am all for, too. It was his second appearance, but this story also introduced us to a number of Ben’s co-workers, many of whom look mighty familiar. There is definitely the potential for a large ensemble comedy down the road, or at least wonderful guest actors popping in and out at will.

The B story is pure comic genius as Crystal (Allison Janney) makes a number of references about things Alonzo (James Lesure) and her boyfriend must certainly have in common. Alice (Andrea Anders) finds Crystal racist as the boss goes on about brothers, funny handshakes, run down houses, and broken bottles littering the yard. Even Alonzo, who keeps his cool for most of the episode, starts to get upset. Crystal’s growing afro, caused by the broken air conditioning, was a stroke of genius, adding to the illusion, and providing physical comedy unto itself.

But Crystal’s new guy is white. And he is Alonzo’s fraternity brother, so everything Crystal says is completely harmless and true. The one comment that doesn’t fit, as Alice points out, is because Crystal thinks Alice is old, a delightful insult, made so by Anders’s reaction. The entire plot is crafted so elegantly, guided by brilliant comic performers. It is impossible to see the punchline coming, but incredibly effective when it lands. Crystal is doofy and ignorant, but she isn’t mean spirited. This may have been my favorite bit in the series so far.

Please don’t count out Mr. Sunshine. New episodes air Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com