Did you happen to miss the premiere of Patrick Stewart’s new show Blunt Talk this weekend? Well then congratulations, you dodged a bullet. A bullet made of unfunny, talent-wasting crap that lasted approximately 28 minutes. The show, which aired on Starz this Saturday, is about an over-the-top, narcissistic cable news host named Walter Blunt (GET IT?), whose ratings are failing and whose personal life is off the rails and— thanks to a pot-chocolate-fueled stand-off with the LAPD after being busted with a transsexual prostitute— not as “personal” as one might like. The show comes from Jonathan Ames (Bored to Death), so you may expect there to be some unlikeable characters. But it also comes from Seth MacFarlane, so don’t set your expectations too much higher than that. It’s apparently too much to hope for characters who are deliberately unlikeable AND THEN ALSO ANYTHING ELSE. Instead, every character seems to be based around one characteristic, one gag, and then left to sit flaccid in that one gimmick, as if a shocking quirk is a decent stand-in for character and plot. Blunt is grandiose, flamboyant, whose alcoholism and substance abuse is more a gimmick for eccentricity than actual character depth. Much of the pilot is based around Walter’s relationship with his butler/assistant/former Falklands War vet. But every moment between them is less relationship than it is mining for shock value. Blunt Talk is Network, if Howard Beale made his butler whip him with a cat o’ nine tails in his office. It’s Newsroom’s pompous blowhard Will McAvoy if he went home and turned into a Woodhouse-abusing Sterling Archer.
And yet. The light that shines through all of this is Ames’ brilliant decision to cast (or rather, to build his whole show around) Patrick Stewart as his lead. Despite wasting a half hour of my weekend watching this show, I’ll probably tune back in next weekend. In part, because I want the show to get better. I don’t know if it will, but Patrick Stewart is long-overdue for a comedy vehicle beyond his own Twitter account.
Happy Halloween. pic.twitter.com/ugLBMzAeNF— Patrick Stewart (@SirPatStew) October 31, 2013
And even within the lazy shock-based wacky quirk-fest that was the Blunt Talk pilot, there were a few beautiful moments. Like Patrick Stewart shouting Hamlet from atop his vintage Jaguar.
Or this genuinely sweet moment with that prostitute.
However, the single greatest moment of the show came in the form of one surprise cameo.
Dear Jonathan Ames: Please reroute your plans for Blunt Talk so that it is now a show about Picard and Data having coffee. (I don’t even need it to be tea! And I definitely don’t want to think too hard about what exactly that coffee is made of.) Even though Brent Spiner was only in the pilot for less than 60 seconds, he’s slated to make a few more cameo appearances as the piano-playing Phil, and Ames has said he wants to load the (optimistically expectant) second season with more Star Trek cast members, starting with LeVar Burton.
Are theses cameos, along with a few great moments from Patrick Stewart, enough to hook an audience into giving the show more of a chance? I don’t know. I want them to be. I really would love for this show, with its eccentric, Shakespeare-spouting Stewart, to be good. But based on the pilot…