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May 12, 2006 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | May 12, 2006 |

OK, Right off the top, let’s get the monkey thing out of the way. Tom Cavanagh, formerly of “Ed,” plays Tom Farrell, a record label A&R guy booted from his job at a major record label for a Jerry Maguire-style mission statement opposing the corporate homogenization of the music industry. In addition to his job flux, Tom/Ed/Tom’s love life is also a bit transitory and, as his friend analogizes, he’s swinging from branch to branch. And if “you keep looking for the perfect branch, you’re gonna end up one lonely monkey.” Thus, he’s a “Love Monkey.”

“Touch him!”

Coming into this show, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I have friends who were very excited simply because they loved the “Ed,” but I never saw more than about five minutes of the show, so all I really knew about Cavanagh was that he played J.D.’s brother (on “Scrubs”) fantastically well. And how well Tom plays Tom on “Love Monkey” is central to the show’s ultimate success. While there are some potentially great characters surrounding him, have no doubt that this is Tom/Ed/Tom’s show, and he handles himself well. His narration on the show, the latest gimmick employed to make a show seem hip and different, is entertaining and not used too much or as a crutch to fill in weaknesses in the show (see “Emily’s Reason Why She’s Canceled”). For example, with regard to his soon-to-be ex, Tom/Ed/Tom explains that “our musical tastes aren’t exactly in synch — she listens to Jewel and weeps, while I prefer music.” A well-delivered line like that is not only funny, but serves the show’s characters by informing the viewer. But nothing sums up Tom/Ed/Tom’s performing potential better than the perfectly delivered observation, while watching the same soon-to-be ex performing in a club, that “she’s … awful.” So funny and spot-on was this delivery that I actually hit the “jump back” button on my TiVo to watch it again, the ultimate sign of respect for any show.

“Love him!”

Of course, no matter how good Tom/Ed/Tom ends up being, this show will likely live or die by the rest of the ensemble. Some of the characters weren’t fleshed out so much, such as his buddy Shooter, but you can only do so much with a pilot — I’m cautiously optimistic that this will not be a long-term problem. But one character who definitely stood out was Tom/Ed/Tom’s best friend Bran, played by Judy Greer (she of “Arrested Development” breast-flashing). A rather nuanced performance that delivers its own humor and acts as the moral/thematic voice of the show (in fact, it’s Bran who delivers the branch/monkey line). My only reservation with her (and this is with the character development, not Greer’s performance) is that we have already been given breadcrumbs of some unrequited something-or-other in her and Tom/Ed/Tom’s relationship, and that’s a well-traveled road that I would rather “Love Monkey” didn’t travel down. But assuming they do eventually go that way, I’ll reserve judgment until I see how they handle it.

While talking about the other characters of the show, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that Tom/Ed/Tom’s friend and brother-in-law is played by none other than post-car crash Jason Priestly. While I was always more of a Dylan guy, it’s fun to see Brandon in a new show, and he comes off very well as the voice of marriage, espousing its pros while still being somewhat jealous of his friends’ singleness. And it’s fun to see Priestly get the show’s coveted “and …” opening credit.

“Lieben meine affemonkey!”

The relationship angle isn’t the show’s only focus. As anyone who has read my past reviews can probably guess, I’m a huge fan of shows that successfully integrate music. With “Love Monkey,” the music isn’t just an integrated soundtrack element, but a central element of the show itself. Tom/Ed/Tom is a record label A&R guy with a keen ear for and love of good music like “Dylan, Clash, Stones, Pistols, Run-DMC, Aretha, Smokey,” as opposed to the “latest lip-synching Ashlee Simpson flavor-of-the-minute.” This means that Tom/Ed/Tom’s narration is littered with Hornby-esque music references, like the “she listens to Jewel” line. This is probably my favorite element of the show, and something I hope they stick with.

“Love Monkey” is not without its potential problems, and one such problem may also come from this music angle. Tom/Ed/Tom’s profession means that musicians will be featured during various shows, as Teddy Geiger’s character was during this pilot. While I love this for now, I worry that, if not handled right, the whole thing could start to feel very Peach Pitty and Bait Shoppy. Even worse, it raises the risk of having cheesy music montages thrown at us. Feh. But right now, it’s nothing more than a risk, and I remain hopeful that its one they can avoid. (This optimism is helped greatly by the fact that one of the TV Whore’s favorites, Ben Folds, will be popping up on an upcoming episode!)

“Love Monkey” may not be the greatest thing since “Lost” or “Arrested Development,” but it’s entertaining. It actually reminds me a little of “Grey’s Anatomy” — a hip and sometimes clever show that feels a bit fluffy at times and which has a large “petering off” potential. As with “Grey’s,” I probably wouldn’t cry if I missed an episode of this or if it were eventually taken from me, but I will keep watching it because it’s entertaining and, for now at least, makes me as happy as a little girl.

Seth Frelich is a television columnist for Pajiba. He lives in Washignton, D.C. and couldn’t be happier that summer “intern season” is finally here.

"Love Monkey" / The TV Whore

May 12, 2006

TV | May 12, 2006 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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