Hey everyone, Shaun is back!   His inauguration celebration hangover has just worn off and he’s ready for another year of looking at television with me.  This week we review a new comedy/drama on TNT, Trust Me. It premieres tonight at 10 PM/9C.

trust-meTrust Me is about ad people in the 21st century, and before any of you cry “Mad Men ripoff,” let me assure you that Trust Me couldn’t be farther from Mad Men in terms of tone, look and approach.  Hey, if there can be umpteen shows about doctors, lawyers or cops, we can certainly put up with another show about an advertising agency. Trust Me is the type of light drama that TNT excels at.  With good reason, the creators this show, Hunt Baldwin and John Coveney are both veterans of The Closer, TNT’s sensation that is the highest rated original series on basic cable.

I had reservations going into Trust Me because anytime you put together a cast of actors who’ve had success on other shows, it can spell disaster.  Moreover, I wondered if Eric McCormack would shed his “Will” mannerisms from his days on Will and Grace. I had more faith in Tom Cavanaugh (Ed of Ed) because he’s done other, darker roles since that show was canceled, but McCormack’s role as “Will” lives on in syndication.

In the first episode, we learn that McCormack’s character, Mason, and Cavanaugh’s Connor have been an ad team for years (Mason is the artist, Connor the writer). By the end of the first act, Mason is promoted above his old friend. While Mason learns to cultivate his inner shark, he also has to deal with how this promotion will affect his partnership with Connor. At the same time, a new writer arrives at the agency and she brings with her a slew of awards and plenty of attitude. This character is played by Monica Potter. While there is a plot involving beating out a competitor for a big cell phone campaign, plot is secondary in this series that has some zip to it and shows real potential.

McCormack and Cavanaugh work great together.  McCormack’s conservative, cautious approach to Mason is the perfect foil to Cavanaugh’s impulsive and over-caffeinated Conner.  These two are the main reason to watch Trust Me, as they really come off like a couple of old friends struggling with the changes in life thrown their way.  Potter is pleasant to watch and her character shows real human flaws and doesn’t come off as just some bitch there to take command of the office. Added to the mix is one of my favorite actors, Griffin Dunne (After Hours) as the creative director of Connor and Mason’s team. 

Shaun: I approached Trust Me with equal apprehension.  Both Ed and Will and Grace had long worn out their welcomes by their completions in my opinion.  It is difficult sometimes for actors to escape the particular mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of a character after not only playing them so long, but becoming essentially identified with them. Cavanaugh has been able to escape this with a few well positioned guest appearances, his turn in Scrubs for example, but McCormack has not really had the chance. One has to assume that both had this in mind when they came together for Trust Me.

The show is light, though it is inevitable in current television to draw comparisons between one advertising show and the other.  One can see that Mad Men must have played some role in the show’s creation. While there are similarities, Cavanaugh is the gifted ad-man ala Don Draper, and McCormack the more level-headed company man like Pete Campbell.  But the show is self-aware enough to know that it is not possessing of the same depth of gravitas.  That is not to take away from the show; it successfully delivers its formula, with a mood that is more akin to say Scrubs and The Office than its more serious cousin.

The cast’s chemistry is comfortable; everyone seems to be playing off each other with a sense that they know where they are going.  While I find that McCormack and Cavanaugh play off each other well, I think Dunne is the standout here.  His character is thus far under-used, but Dunne has an affable charm that seems believable.  Potter I think is finding her way.  She is likable enough, but I don’t know if I have a deeper sense of her character quite yet.  Is she a romantic interest for Cavanaugh?  Is she the ambitious troublemaker?  Enough time has not passed to be fair, but there should at least be some kind of innate sense of where she is going.

Scott: The thing I liked about Potter is that she was scattered and sloppy enough to appear like most of the real writers I know.  The one actor I thought was underused was Sarah Clarke as McCormack’s wife, Erin.  Clarke was so great on the first season of 24, strong and a real individual, that I hope she doesn’t get relegated to just the “wife” role in this series.  As McCormack’s character takes on more responsibilities in the office, I imagine he’ll be spending less time at home.  This could create a conflict that will allow this talented actress something to chew on.

Overall, I thought the writing was really sharp in the first two episodes.  While the ending of the pilot was a bit, how do I put it, lame, it didn’t take away from the intention and was still effective in showing the strong bond between the two leads.  That said, these guys are gong to need a little of the Draper mysticism in the board room to convince me that they’re actual ad men.  Then again, maybe Don Draper in the anomaly and what we’re seeing on Trust Me is actually how an ad agency is run.

The good news is that TNT has a history of committing to airing every episode of the shows the produce, even if the show is terrible.  However, Trust Me is definitely not terrible; it is quite good.  Furthermore, its episodes are airing after The Closer, a terrific lead in.  I predict that Trust Me will become the next hit for TNT and will be around for at least a couple of seasons.

Shaun: I agree that there is a smart show inside here somewhere. However, I think they need to find it to continue to convince the viewer the show is worth its running time. As I wrote, I believe there are the makings of chemistry, and at the end of the second episode, I found I enjoyed the relationships. I suppose all shows need to develop the core of the show’s depth. Very few have it right out of the gate, and Trust Me might just need some time to grow. However I do agree, Sarah Clarke steals the show in the second episode, I look forward to seeing more of her.

All in all, I am hopeful for this show. I am not so quick to dismiss it or relegate it to an occasional viewing. I am a fan of Monica Potter and Cavanaugh enough to see where their characters go. I had a few smiles, though I would like to see McCormack play a less bitchy version of himself for a change. I suppose it comes back to the inevitable comparison we cannot help but make about this show to so many things that pre-date it or are its contemporaries. “Trust Me” has but to find a voice where in people will one day think some other show reminds them of it.

I see Trust Me as a welcome piece of potential that can remind you that “relatively” free television can still produce scripted shows that are funny and quirky. TNT has brought terrific shows in the past, and like networks over a decade ago, they will have the patience and will to take the series’ title advice, and see where it