Matthew Perry created one of the all-time great TV characters during his stint on Friends: a nervous schlub who compensated for his deficiencies with razor-sharp wisecracks. Perry has tried to peddle the same character in several productions since then, but he's never found a context that fits him the way Friends did. Mr. Sunshine (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., ABC) continues the losing streak.
Maybe "losing streak" is too strong a phrase. The new sitcom isn't terrible, but it's also not terribly good so far. Perry plays the boss of an arena, overseeing events that range from circuses to hockey games. There's farce involving clowns and elephants on the loose, plus ensemble comedy with Allison Janney as the facility's obnoxious owner and Andrea Anders as a sexy marketing manager.
Perry doesn't seem quite right at the center of all this, partly because his character is too much of a basket case to register as the boss of anything. Besides, if the actor were really on top of his game, would we need all those clowns and elephants to generate laughs?
The Sunset Limited
Saturday, 8 pm (HBO)
I love writer Cormac McCarthy and actors Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel Jackson. But I don't like The Sunset Limited at all, even though McCarthy wrote it and Jones and Jackson star in it. All of them bomb out in this two-person play adaptation about a suicidal professor (Jones) and the Bible-thumping murderer (Jackson) who saves his life.
The two characters sit in a room and talk about deep subjects, from God to civilization to the death of meaning. The conversational rhythms feel wrong (blame that partly on Jones, who serves as director), and the strenuous attempts at profundity are the stuff of late-night college-dorm bull sessions.
"Suffering and human destiny are the same thing!" the professor declaims in one of his excruciating philosophical rants.
I don't know about that, but I did come to believe that suffering and The Sunset Limited were the same thing.
Sunday, 7 pm (CBS)
You've got to love the Grammys' big-tent approach to the recording industry. Where else are you going to see two very different Ladies (Antebellum and Gaga) competing for Album of the Year? Or the jazz-oriented Esperanza Spalding going up against the haircut-oriented Justin Bieber in the Best New Artist category? We also get the dead (Michael Jackson) battling the living (Adam Lambert) and the barely living (Michael Bublé) for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Then there are the dozens of nominees never acknowledged on other awards shows.
I have a dream that a bunch of these nominees say, nutty avant-gardist Laurie Anderson, schlocky crooner Barry Manilow, gritty blues guitarist Buddy Guy, lefty folksinger Pete Seeger and easy-listening saxophonist Kenny G -- will all appear on stage together in one of those strange Grammy mashups. But maybe that's just me.
Monday, 7:30 pm (CBS)
In this new sitcom, young couples hook up and unhook, ad infinitum. You can usually tell how desperate a writing staff is by how soon it goes for a witless defecation joke and here, it's within the first minute. That joke is followed by witless boob jokes, fat jokes, masturbation jokes and vagina jokes. Yep, you can cut the desperation with a knife.
The worst thing about Mad Love is the constant bickering. Larry (Tyler Labine) and Connie (Judy Greer) are thrown together when their better-looking friends hook up (see above), and they develop a very unpleasant insult relationship. "There wouldn't be enough alcohol in the world for me to sleep with you!" Connie sneers. Believe it or not, that's supposed to be a punchline.
I can see myself developing a very unpleasant insult relationship with Mad Love.
Wednesday, 9 pm (SyFy)
This reality series pits special-effects makeup artists against each other to see who can create the coolest or ugliest faces. It's an inspired idea, allowing us a peek at a novel sort of craftsmanship. The artists are given all sorts of creative challenges, including one where they must incorporate elements from a party into their designs. That leads to pineapple-leaf scales, cauliflower teeth and other grotesque solutions.
I admired the contestants' ingenuity while losing all taste for pineapple and cauliflower for several days.