Patrick Stewart gives such an amusing, skilled, energetic performance in the new Starz sitcom Blunt Talk, it’s too bad there’s not a laugh in the show, unless you think an extended sequence of a man trying in vain to put sanitary paper on an airport toilet is hilarious.
Stewart plays Walter Blunt, the British anchor of an American cable news broadcast. His show-within-a-show is also called Blunt Talk, which implies a certain amount of editorializing, but based on the first two episodes made available for review, Blunt Talk is more like a CNN news show in the manner of Anderson Cooper 360 (Cooper is invoked favorably with frequency here). Blunt Talk is plagued with poor ratings, and to goose the numbers, the anchor resorts to a number of gimmicks: interviewing himself on split-screen to explain why he was arrested for driving while high, with a prostitute, and assaulting a police officer; and broadcasting during a hurricane (albeit a one manufactured against a green screen, on the set of a porn film, for reasons too tedious to explain here).
Created by Jonathan Ames (Bored to Death) and produced by Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane, Blunt Talk is intended, Ames has said, to be a cross between the 1976 news-media jeremiad Network and P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Bertie novels. (Like Bertie Wooster, Blunt has an ever-present, Jeeves-like manservant, Adrian Scarborough’s Harry.)
The excellent cast includes Jacki Weaver (Oscar-nominated for Silver Linings Playbook) and Dolly Wells (of HBO’s Doll & Em) among Walter Blunt’s producers. Stewart gives a terrific performance, gliding through a song-and-dance fantasy in the second episode, and, throughout, delivering his lines with astutely timed gusto. It’s too bad the lines aren’t funny, and that we’ve seen so many satires of TV news, it’s going to take a lot more imagination than Blunt Talk has displayed so far (Starz has already ordered 20 episodes to be split into two seasons) to make it regular viewing for anyone.
Blunt Talk airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.