Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pilot Review: Blunt Talk

Blunt Talk (Starz)
Premiered August 22 at 9pm

Brits and Americans are very different, and it’s the subject of many television shows. In the case of this new Starz series, the fact that news personality Walter Blunt is British is almost inconsequential, really contained to him spouting Shakespeare when he’s hopped up on any number of substances. It’s his addiction to all those products that is immensely problematic and makes him a train wreck just waiting to derail. I imagined that this episode would feel a lot like the first hour of “The Newsroom,” but it lacked that certain cathartic moment in which the audience could truly understand what Walter brings to the table. Instead, he interviewed himself, which was odd and not so impactful, and then he passed out on screen. This show’s title has many meanings, and it is indeed blunt, edgy, and unfiltered. Patrick Stewart is a fantastic actor making his major return to television after a long run over two decades ago as Captain Jean-Luc Picard (I enjoyed the cameo by Brent Spiner, his longtime costar on that show), and it’s great to see him in more of a comedic light. That said, his performance is controlled but his character is all over the place, and it’s hard to latch on to him as a protagonist. In the supporting cast are a few familiar faces, including Timm Sharp from “Enlightened,” Dolly Wells from “Doll and Em,” Romany Malco from “Weeds,” and Jacki Weaver from “Animal Kingdom.” I’m willing to give this show another chance, but this debut installment wasn’t exactly satisfying or inviting.

How will it work as a series? I’d imagine that Walter has to still be alive, and maybe passing out on air will help spike ratings in the way that the show and network desperately need. He’ll be on a tight leash to be sure, and it could be entertaining to watch him try to stay out of trouble. It could also be depraved and directionless; I’m hoping for the former.
How long will it last? Starz has already ordered two seasons, which makes for twenty episodes in total. It’s too hard to know whether the network will want to stick with it any longer so far down the road, but I also suspect that, no matter what the ratings are, two seasons of this show will be exactly what the network wants to produce.

Pilot grade: C+

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