August 22, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Blunt Talk”


BLUNT TALK:  Saturday 9PM on Starz – If Nothing Else Is On…

For Jonathan Ames, the creator of Starz’s new comedy BLUNT TALK, the sweet spot is the intersection of addled (male) self-delusion and yearning.  His HBO series Bored To Death never found much of an audience, but it was rewarding for those who got into its off-kilter rhythms.  Bored was greatly helped by its ensemble cast, which included Jason Schwartzman, Zack Galifianakis and a peerless Ted Danson, but Blunt Talk is conceived as a star vehicle for Patrick Stewart.  Stewart has been part of Seth MacFarlane’s stable for years, happily contributing his plummy voice to most of MacFarlane’s projects at one time or another (most notably as the CIA boss on American Dad), and MacFarlane is the presiding non-writing Executive Producer of Blunt Talk.  (It’s far from coincidental that Starz ordered 20 episodes of the series–2 season’s worth–sight unseen.)  Stewart is more than game for all the sex and drugs gags Ames throws at him, but with only one dysfunctional figure at its center, Blunt Talk feels more conventional than it’s probably meant to be.

Starz made the first two episodes available on various platforms prior to tonight’s official debut (both are written by Ames and directed by Tristam Shapeero), and they each feature a scandal for the Piers Morgan-like cable TV host Walter Blunt (Stewart).  In the first, a drunken and somewhat stoned Walter (considering the title’s pun and the amount of weed consumed in Bored To Death, it’s a little surprising that pot isn’t much seen in the new show) is arrested after his tryst with a transgender hooker is interrupted by the LAPD; in the second, Walter’s attempt to fake a live Galveston hurricane report from a porn studio (Walter missed the flight to Texas due to issues with the airport bathroom sinks and toilets) results in his valet Harry (Adrian Scarborough) being arrested for onscreen sex without a condom.  In both cases, Walter’s staff–various producers played by Jacki Weaver, Timm Sharp and Dolly Wells–scurry to support him, despite his usually crazy ideas of how to get out of trouble.

Stewart makes the most of the dichotomy between his elegant diction and Walter’s vices, and the character has been given some eccentric traits to play with (when he’s tense, he has one of the staff spoon with him, and Harry has to read him to sleep at night), but apart from a fixation on his and Harry’s military service in the Falklands, so far he doesn’t have much emotional content.  There’s little trace of the lovelorn weirdness and camaraderie of Bored To Death, with jokes about oxy and Anderson Cooper filling the time instead.  No one in the supporting cast makes much of an immediate impression, either, including Weaver, who still seems to be working the quasi-Philly accent she introduced in Silver Linings Playbook.

Starz is in the process of finding itself as a source of premium original content, especially on the comedy side, and being in business with MacFarlane and Stewart justifies the big pricetag the network had to pay for the project.  The good news is that Ames has tons of time to work out what he wants Blunt Talk to be, with 18 episodes still to come.  Guest appearances in the first two episodes from Richard Lewis (as Walter’s coke-supplying shrink) and Brett Gelman (as the porn purveyor) suggest that this is where the show may find its most promise.  For now, to be candid, Blunt Talk is only moderately worthwhile.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."