Wednesday, January 18, 2006

TV: Love Monkey

I liked everything about Love Monkey but its title. What a stupid, off-putting title. In fact, I've already heard from one person who didn't watch the show specifically because of it. Now, when you're naming something, I know there's an irresistible urge to come up with something unique and memorable. But sometimes, especially in TV, it's better to go with safe and plain rather than alienating your potential audience before they even sample what you're offering. Just sayin'.

That awful title is hiding a pretty darn good show. Love Monkey stars Tom Cavanagh, a favorite of mine from Ed, who here plays Tom (what a stretch!), an A&R man for a major record label in New York. He manages to torpedo himself by losing his girlfriend and his job in one day, all for his overriding love of the purity and power of music. He winds up at a smaller label, one that cares more about the music than the money, and away we go.

Cavanagh is always a winning presence, and he doesn't fail to charm here, in much the same fashion as bowling alley lawyer Ed. He's very funny, with a quirky, rapid-fire but seemingly spontaneous delivery, and his facial expressions never fail to amuse me, from boggled disbelief to the deadliest of deadpans. This show would probably have me as a fan even if the only thing going for it were Cavanagh.

Fortunately, it's got even more to offer. I like the supporting cast, especially Judy Greer (who was so hilarious as Kitty on Arrested Development) as Tom's best girl friend (not girlfriend, he's a little too quick to point out, but a friend who's a girl). Even Jason Priestly, as the buddy who married Tom's sister, works for me, although it took me a while to recognize him through the bloat. And I enjoyed the passion Tom has for his music (and his willingness to slam crap; in one voiceover about his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend: "She listens to Jewel and weeps, while I prefer music"), a passion which is obviously shared by the show's creators, and which is well-conveyed to the audience.

It's hard to watch the show and not think about High Fidelity -- it's built around the same kind of perpetually adolescent male who can't commit to a relationship outside of his lifelong love of music. But it's a pleasing tribute rather than a crass rip-off, and there are far worse things to aspire to than capturing the vibe of High Fidelity.

This is a real standout for CBS, and a pleasant departure from their all-CSI format. I hope it catches on. A new title couldn't hurt.

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