TV Eye

Manic Men

<i>Trust Me</i>
Trust Me

For devoted "TV Eye" readers, this may be obvious, but I have made mistakes. I have been wrong. Sometimes slightly wrong, sometimes glaringly wrong, wrong, wrong. I was reminded of this when I was watching the screener of Trust Me, the new drama on TNT. I watched it twice, trying to figure out what I liked about the show and, more importantly, what was wrong with it. What was off about it? I couldn't put my finger on it until I realized what was missing – and that would be David E. Kelley. Yes, the same David E. Kelley I've trounced many times before for being annoying (Ally McBeal) and foolish (Snoops). And yet, his name came to mind after I watched Trust Me. The show is desperate for Kelley, who's made a career of creating quirky, sometimes annoying, but ultimately engaging characters. The Denny Crane-Alan Shore friendship of Boston Legal was marked as much by its warmth as its peculiarities. Unfortunately, Trust Me – which appears to have been influenced, if not outright inspired, by Kelley's work – is in the hands of two former advertising pros who've assembled a slick-looking product with an appealing cast and an insider perspective of the ad game but little substance. It's a shame, too. There's much to like about Trust Me.

Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Tom Cavanagh (Love Monkey, Ed) star as Mason McGuire and Conner (just Conner), friends and working partners in a high-powered Chicago ad agency, an industry that demands the best and the worst from its people, sometimes at questionable cost. (A brilliantly apoplectic flare-out by Life on Mars' Jason O'Mara, who plays Mason and Conner's tightly wound boss, single-handedly makes the pilot episode worth watching.) Mason is the art side of the team, a stable family man trying to be a decent guy in what can be a cutthroat business. Conner is the talented copywriter and playboy, always willing to put pleasure before work, often leaving Mason in a lurch but always coming through in the end.

Cavanagh has a history of playing lovable nuts and louts (as in his recurring roles on Eli Stone and Scrubs). He brings out the high-voltage crazy from his bag of tricks for this role as well. While Conner is supposed to be the off-the-wall side of the coin, one can't help but wish someone would lace his coffee with Ritalin. Apparently, dealing with Conner's kinetic energy is worth it because he's brilliant. But it's the "show, don't tell" rule in storytelling that gets broken here. We're told Conner is brilliant but don't get much evidence of it. (Another challenge of centering a series among a bunch of brilliant creatives – you kind of have to deliver, week after week, especially when so much energy is spent telling the viewer how imaginative and inventive the world is.)

McCormack's Mason is much more grounded and interesting, perhaps because we get to see more of his personal life and because the changes that occur early in the series directly affect him. The show's creators seem to have a better understanding of Mason and his interior life. Not so with Conner. So, when Conner has a hissy fit over Mason's promotion, it seems baseless, contrived, and, well, who cares? Except for some talk of old times and a few references to old photos, the depth of their friendship is a mystery.

The supporting cast is particularly good. Mike Damus and Geoffrey Arend as Tom and Hector, two junior members of Mason's creative group, are low-key and arrogant in that youthful way that is both off-putting and amusing at once. Monica Potter as Sarah Krajicek-Hunter, an award-winning copywriter with a reputation for being difficult, is a yappy, high-strung antidote to Tom and Hector's slacker vibe. Griffin Dunne, whose last big role was as the ravaged Jack in An American Werewolf in London, has kept a low profile since then, making TV appearances and working behind the camera. In Trust Me, he has a meaty role and an even greater character name: Tony Mink. The competitive creative director over the entire group, Tony is feeling the clock running out on his career. Dunne and McCormick have an easy rapport, and it's their relationship that seems the most grounded and rich with possibility.

But who knows? I've been wrong before.

Trust Me premieres Monday, Jan. 26, at 9pm on TNT.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Trust Me, Eric McCormack, Tom Cavanagh, TNT

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