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January 30, 2009 | Comments ()


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Making Whole Lies Out of Half Truths

"Trust Me" / Dustin Rowles

TV Reviews | January 30, 2009 | Comments ()


I suppose it was inevitable: “Mad Men” becomes the low-rated zeitgeistian show of 2008, so some numbnuts was bound to be determined to modernize and commercialize a show about advertising executives and attempt to pump it into the American conscience with all the money an off-network marketing budget could muster. Here’s your tagline, “Trust Me”: “Hey! It’s just like ‘Mad Men,’ only it’s neither nuanced nor substantive.”

Granted, it is fun to watch. I mean: Let’s be honest. The best parts of “Bewitched” were always when Samantha would help Derwood come up with a last-second campaign idea and impress a client in the face of a cynical Sam Tate. That’s kind of what “Trust Me,” is: An hour-long dramedy that revolves around coming up with impressive ideas for advertising campaigns, to save their jobs, their careers, their love lives, and their friendships. Yeah: It’s comically melodramatic. But as much as I like “Mad Men,” the one thing about the show that consistently disappoints me is that, while those people work in an advertising agency, they don’t talk about their campaigns often enough. They go out to drink with clients, they haggle over promotions, and deal with interoffice politics, but the details of their ad campaigns rarely play center in the comfortably meandering plotlines. It’s a shame, too. I can’t help it: I’m a sucker for a big pitch that saves the day (note: I have a side job in advertising, and also understand how completely unglamorous the profession actually is, unless your idea of glamor is squabbling over word choice and fiddling with fonts).

Thankfully, at least evidenced by the pilot episode, “Trust Me” will rely heavily on the characters coming up with gimmicky campaigns to save their asses. And those characters are, principally, Conner (Thomas Cavanagh) and Mason (Eric McCormick), two ad partners and best friends in the vein of “Scrubs’” J.D. and Turk, only older and not quite as witty. They are, so far, what saves the show — they manage to elevate the mediocre material to a little something more than mediocre. I’ve never been particularly fond of McCormick, dating back to the overrated “Will and Grace,” but I’ve always been unnaturally charmed by Thomas Cavanagh. Like his co-star on “Ed,” Julie Bowen, Cavanagh has always been a likable presence, an actor who can bring verve to bland material, but at the same, doesn’t really deserve any better material than that. Better material would render his talents moot — he makes bad shows better, but he’s not really equipped to make good shows great. The other lead, Sarah (Monica Potter), is a recently divorced, neurotic, abrasive, and arrogant copywriter, who will undoubtedly become Conner’s love interest in a screwball romance at some point.

The setup: Conner and Mason are working their dream job at the Chicago advertising agency, Rothman, Greene, and Moore. They’re called back from L.A. to handle a client on a potential Super Bowl spot. Their insane, control-freak egomaniacal boss drops dead. Mason gets a promotion; Conner is jealous. There’s some interpersonal drama; Sarah hates her new job with the firm because no one appreciates her talent. And it all culminates in a big pitch for a cell phone company and a rousing Smashing Pumpkins song.

“Trust Me” is a little cheesy in parts, and the jokes have too much of a sitcom flavor for my taste (or, perhaps, McCormick is still stuck in sitcom mode). They also try way too hard (and fail) to capture the “West Wing” walk-and-talk dynamic, and after the first half-hour of the pilot episode, I’d almost written it off. But the bromantic vibe takes off in the latter half, the two leads grew on me, and there’s a few David E. Kelley flourishes to carry it along. It lacks edge, but it’s effervescent and appealing enough to merit, at least, a temporary season pass on the DVR. And, it’s on TNT, so it’s nice to know that it’ll at least live, uninterrupted, through its first season.

(“Trust Me” airs at 10 p.m. EST, Monday nights on TNT.)







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