Mr. Sunshine (ABC – Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.)

Matthew Perry stars as Ben Donovan, the general manager of the Sunshine Center, who every night navigates a never-ending series of bizarre requests, curious mishaps and employee screw ups to put on a show for 18,000 screaming people.

Working alongside him is his boss and arena owner Crystal, attractive, powerful and highly erratic; Alice, the cute, tomboyish marketing director and Ben’s friend with benefits; Alonzo, a former basketball player, handsome and unbelievably happy; Ben’s assistant, Heather, pretty, sweet, but terrifying because she once lit a boyfriend on fire; and Crystal’s son, Roman, sweet-faced, clueless and Ben’s newest employee.

“Mr. Sunshine” stars Matthew Perry (“Friends”) as Ben, Allison Janney (“The West Wing”) as Crystal, Andrea Anders as Alice, James Lesure as Alonzo and Nate Torrence as Roman. – ABC

2 out of 10

They say that familiarity breeds contempt and that particular axiom has special meaning for this “comedy” offering from ABC.  You see, everything is familiar about this show and for that we have contempt for it.  The story is familiar as it’s obviously just a cheap rip-off of NBC’s 30 Rock, the characters are familiar as they are obviously just cheap rip-offs of the characters on NBC’s 30 Rock, the stale jokes are familiar as they are obviously just cheap rip-offs of the jokes on 30 Rock, and the style of the show is familiar as it is – you guessed it – obviously just a cheap rip-off of 30 Rock.

Mr. Sunshine is unoriginal tripe.  As noted, the jokes aren’t original, they aren’t funny and there are really no likable characters.  The attempts at slapstick fail completely and the only message  we can really ascertain at the end of each episode is “don’t tune in again next week unless you want to more crap.”  We would also really like to know whose brilliant idea was it to make a sports arena as a backdrop for a show.  Have the writers been reduced to Mad Libs or are they just pulling slips of paper out of a hat for story ideas, now?  Also, actors delivering their dialogue like a machine gun doesn’t make it any funnier.

There’s one more thing that’s familiar about this show that needs to be addressed: Matthew Perry.  No offense to the guy, but we’re sick of him.  He does nothing for anything he is in.  He’s not horrible, he’s just vanilla… milquetoast… bland.  Like every other cast member on that horrible piece-of-crap show, Friends (we don’t care if you watched it… you know it sucks) they gave him a shot to do films in the 1990’s and 2000’s and like every other cast member with maybe the exception of Jennifer Aniston (we qualify Aniston with a “maybe” because although she’s had some successful films and her name is a draw because we guess she was hot at one point and married to Brad Pitt, other than Office Space, her films are crap) he has a history of box office failures and television failures.  The only films that were even worth watching that this guy has been in were  The Whole Nine Yards and Fools Rush In and the only reason why those two films were worth investing in was because one starred Bruce Willis and the other one starred Selma Hayek.  We’re sorry, but Perry simply does not bring much more to the table in 2011 than he has for the last 15 years.  If you don’t believe us, simply look at his résumé and tell us that we’re wrong.

We’re also finding the similarities to this show and 30 Rock a little creepy.  Has anyone else caught the fact that in 2006, NBC debuted two shows about what goes on backstage at a sketch comedy show, one of a highly acclaimed sit com in the form of 30 Rock and the other a highly acclaimed drama called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and that only 30 Rock was kept and that 30 Rock is now in its fifth season?  Has anyone else caught the fact that Matthew Perry was a regular cast member on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and has hardly worked since?

Here’s our theory:

Perry is trying to make up for the success that he didn’t have on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip by duplicating almost everything in 30 Rock, the show that, let’s face it, won the battle at NBC amongst the shows about sketch comedy shows.  Now, why do we suggest that this is creepy or even happening?  Well, normally we don’t wait around for end credits when watching anything on VOD but we did for this because we wanted to see who the production company was.  To our surprise it was none other than Perry’s own production company, Anhedonia Productions.  You see, Perry co-wrote the pilot and is responsible for this mess coming to ABC and we feel it is his attempt to get back to the status that he once had in the 1990’s on television.

What makes it especially creepy is the name of the production company: “Anhedonia.” Ahedonia is a psychiatric condition defined as  an inability to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, social interaction or sexual activities (i.e., joy).  It is a symptom associated with schizophrenia and drug addiction, in particular with amphetamines which Perry is well-known to have had addiction problems with.  The name of the production company, Perry’s history and the show’s tagline (as seen in the poster above) “Oh, Joy.” is not very encouraging to us.  Maybe we’re looking into this too much and this is only a strange bunch of coincidences but we’d be remiss if we didn’t do the analysis.

So, is the ironically named Mr. Sunshine really an attempt at sit com gold or is it just a desperate expression of melancholy from Perry.  We don’t know but we do know that it’s pretty awful and it has no business being the lead-out for Modern Family.

Watch full episodes of Mr. Sunshine, here.

Harry’s Law (NBC – Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

Emmy Award-winning writer/producer David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal”) weaves his rich storytelling into a new legal dramedy starring Academy Award winner Kathy Bates in the title role – about how people can embrace the unexpected and other curveballs that life can throw at them.

Harriet “Harry” Korn (Kathy Bates, “Misery,” “About Schmidt”) doesn’t believe things happen for a reason, but she discovers that they sometimes do. A curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer, Harry is abruptly fired from her blue chip law firm, forcing her to search for a fresh start. She finds it when her world unexpectedly collides, literally, with Malcolm Davies (Aml Ameen, “Kidulthood”), a kind-hearted college student who desperately needs Harry’s help with his pending court case, and he subsequently goes to work for her.

Harry soon finds her balance as well as new offices in an abandoned shoe store just as legal hotshot Adam Branch (Nate Corddry, “The United States of Tara,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) accidentally hits her while driving. Inspired by Harry’s no-nonsense understanding of the law, Adam decides to take leave of his shiny corporate firm to go and work with her. Harry, Adam and Malcolm – unlikely but kindred spirits – along with the help of Harry’s shoe-savant assistant, Jenna (Brittany Snow, “Hairspray,” “American Dreams”), are now ready for whatever walks in through the doors of their unique establishment – Harriet’s Law and Fine Shoes. – NBC

4 out of 10

Now, you would figure with the cleverly proposed premise and Kathy Bates and David E. Kelley on the marquis, Harry’s Law should be one of the most refreshing new shows of the spring.  I mean, how could they screw this up, right?  The answer is simple and really should have been expected: David E. Kelley.

We really, really wanted to like Harry’s Law and it almost sucked us in… until it morphed into Boston Legal 30 minutes into it.   Please don’t mistake this, it’s not kind-of like Boston Legal because it’s a David E. Kelley show, it’s the exact same frakking show except that this time Kelley figured that it was probably not a good idea to use a TV show as a pulpit for left-wing proselytizing and right-wing bashing when the evangelists are a bunch of uber-wealthy, Boston elitists.

Instead, we now have Harriet Korn (Bates) a well-respected Cincinnati patent attorney who decides that she’s bored of patent-law and goes on a mission of self-discovery that eventually puts her into a crime infested neighborhood that seems awfully clean and in fact it seems a lot like a Universal back lot.  Here she will now practice criminal law (which she has absolutely no experience in) and fight for the poor, downtrodden, misunderstood and those generally abused by the system.

Like Boston Legal before it, you have to suspend your disbelief with the speed of the legal process and the absurdity of the courtroom antics and you also have to suspend your disbelief that a 20 year-plus veteran patent attorney can now be taken seriously as a criminal defense attorney.

No, what kills this show and why it went from a “7” in our book to a “4” from the first half hour to the second is that it suffers from the exact same problems that Boston Legal did when it ended.  Kelley seems obsessed with preaching to the audience his brand of politics, not understanding that by doing so, he’s alienating at least half of his audience.  Conservatives sure as hell don’t want to hear it and Independents don’t want to hear it either and it’s why Boston Legal only got five seasons whereas its predecessor, The Practice got eight seasons.  We left it halfway through season four and there’s only been one other show that we’ve ever committed to that we left before its series run was over (Heroes).

The Practice, although it definitely had its share of issue-oriented shows, was never preachy.  It didn’t need to be.  The drama was compelling and thought-provoking in and of itself on a weekly basis without the need for anyone to tell the audience how to think politically. What we can’t figure out is what happened with Kelley.  Is it just an issue of hating the Bush Administration so much that he decided that all of his projects would now be propaganda outlets?  We could care less either way what anyone’s personal politics are but when it comes to scripted drama on television, no one wants to be lectured to.  Kelley should know this by now and NBC should have figured it out after the Jimmy Smits legal disaster-of-a-show Outlaw.

The only reason we’re not giving this show lower than a “4” is because there is hope for it and the only thing it needs to be enjoyable is to get rid of the political crap.  The performances are solid and the characters are generally likable.  Will they drop the political crap?  It’s doubtful that they will because Kelley has become an absolute egomaniac with his projects and even if they did dump the politics, it will be too late because we expect audiences to abandon it long before that. We believe Kelley is about to learn a valuable lesson about what you can experiment with and what you can’t when a show hasn’t built an established audience and we expect Harry’s Law to not be renewed for a second season in May for Fall 2011.

Watch full episodes of Harry’s Law, here.