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Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Love Monkey’ not a rock ‘n’ roll hit

January 17, 2006

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'Love Monkey'? No thanks, we'd rather not

There's a world of difference between casting against type and simply miscasting. In the past week, we've seen examples of both and we suffer through it again tonight on "Love Monkey" (9 p.m., CBS), starring Tom Cavanaugh.

Asking Jean Smart to play the president's tortured, paranoid, overmedicated wife on "24" is brilliant. Expecting that audiences will buy Heather Graham as a sympathetic and funny single woman is what makes "Emily's Reasons Why Not" unwatchable.

Unfortunately, Cavanaugh's turn as an "edgy" rock-and-roll talent scout is almost painfully preposterous. Don't get me wrong: Cavanaugh and his character, Tom Farrell, seem like really nice guys. Not only is Farrell a nice guy, but he seems to work hard all of the time trying to remind us of what a nice, sweet, quirky, sensitive and silly guy he can be. It's as if "Ed" were on his way to an audition for a Dockers commercial but found himself marooned in the East Village and asked to give a lecture on the history of punk rock.

And "Love Monkey" is an ensemble comedy. In fact, it's pathologically ensemble-rific. Tom can't go anywhere without a posse of pals, relatives and in-laws. His guy friends include an ex-jock, a businessman and his brother in-law. He has a close female confidant and a very pregnant sister who are both blond and hard to tell apart. Everybody in this show seems to finish each other's sentences, correct one another's grammar and know each other's secrets. It's a claustrophobic world where "I'll Be There For You" and "Everybody Knows Your Name" all of the time.

The show's music-industry setting also means we have lots of emotionally laden songs inflicted on us at random moments when the narrative sags. "Love Monkey" mixes classic-rock riffs with tunes by Tom's newly discovered talent, a photogenic young hipster given to singing about his feelings.

"Love Monkey" is not without some redeeming aspects. Erik Bogosian plays Tom's boss, who manages to embody everything sleazy, corrupt and compromised about the music industry. It's too bad he fires Tom early in the pilot. I suspect the show's tenure will be equally short-lived.

Again, I have nothing against Cavanaugh. But it's high time he takes on the roles that suit him. He's a dad, not a dude. Jimmy Stewart had a nice long run embracing his inner cardigan. Cavanaugh should do the same. Who wants to watch a punk rock Peter Pan?

l "Nova" (7 p.m., PBS) looks at the perils of mountain climbing. Every year more than 1,000 intrepid souls attempt to scale Alaska's Denali (the peak formerly known as Mt. McKinley). Many fail, and some of them die. While most of these fatalities are from accidents, others succumb to mystery ailments common only at extremely high altitudes that scientists are only now beginning to understand.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

¢ Auditions, with an accent on musical atrocities, on the fifth-season premiere of "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Luke has some explaining to do on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).

¢ On the brink with North Korea on "Commander in Chief" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ An abandoned infant on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Second chairs and second guessers on "Boston Legal" (9 p.m., ABC).

¢ Scheduled on "REAL Sports with Bryant Gumbel" (9 p.m., HBO): sports memorabilia fraud; locker room infections; the licensing phenomenon of tennis star Maria Sharpova.

¢ The noose tightens on Vic on "The Shield" (9 p.m., FX).

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