Guest Author - BJ Champagne
Hockey ice that won’t melt, an international scandal looming, and an elephant on the loose… It’s all just another day in the life of Mr. Sunshine. Starring Matthew Perry and premiering in ABC’s Wednesday night lineup, Mr. Sunshine follows a day in the life of Ben Donovan sports arena manager for the Sunshine Center in San Diego. As with most pilot episodes, the show offers a good sampling of laughs along with some areas that need work.
In the opening episode Ben, played by Perry, faces some tough questions as he celebrates his birthday. When his romantic interest Alice decides to get serious with another man, Ben ponders if there is more to life than being a single, self-centered, workaholic. His soul searching is interrupted by a whole host of problems at the arena that needs to be dealt with first.
Allison Janney of the West Wing and Juno plays Crystal Cohen. She is a politically incorrect pill popping nut, and Ben’s boss. The opening episode has her accepting an award for donating money to an inner city youth group. Crystal invested heavily in an illegal Himalayan dog track and hopes the positive publicity will help people look past this.
The rest of the ensemble cast includes a sea of recognizable faces to most television fans. Alice, the arena’s marketing director, is played by Andrea Anders from Better off Ted and Joey. She is great, but at this point her relationship with Perry’s character seems awkward. The writers may need time to develop this.
Jorge Garcia of Lost plays the arena maintenance man Bobert. Ben never bothered to learn his name. This name thing may be a running gag?
James Lesure from Las Vegas plays Ben’s upbeat nemesis and Alice’s love interest, Alonzo.
Nate Torrence from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip plays Crystal Cohen’s ignored son Roman. Ben has been put in charge of finding Roman something to do.
Lastly Portia Doubleday plays Heather, Ben’s sweet but scary assistant. Heather may have done some very bad things in her past, and Ben doesn’t want to upset her.
The challenge of every debut episode is that it must introduce you to the entire cast of characters while telling a cohesive story, all in 30 minutes. Mr. Sunshine does that. However, the story’s pacing was a bit off and the opening scene with Perry and Anders wasn’t really needed. Nevertheless, there is more good than bad in Mr. Sunshine, and with time the cast will gel. This has the makings of a fun sitcom if given the time to develop.