Patrick Stewart leads a team of broken people
The show centers around Walter Blunt (Stewart), the face of the UBN network, a veteran of the Falklands War and the captain of a sinking ship, as ratings have been in a slump His problems come to a head when, after a night of drinking and edible marijuana, he is busted--on camera--by the cops with a transgendered prostitute and ends up injuring an officer in the process of being arrested. Doubling down on the damage he's done to his reputation, he takes a lot of pills before facing the nation in order to make an apology for his actions. Instead, he has a near-death experience and decides to turn his life around, both personally, with his staff, family and friends, and professionally, by helping the world through his show, Blunt Talk.
It's doesn't go well.
Part of the problem is his staff, as each one is more broken than the last, from his long-time producer Rosalie (Jacki Weaver), who is dealing with problems of her own in her open marriage to Teddy (Ed Begley, Jr.), to his young protege Jim (Timm Sharp), who has secrets hidden in his locked office. Of course, Walter isn't much help to them because he's trying to fix his own problems, which are exacerbated by his loyal manservant Harry (Adrian Scarborough), who only wants to do right by Walter, but ends up enabling his worst impulses, which often sabotage Walter's good intentions. Despite that, their relationship is key to Stewart's character's man-out-of-time appeal.
Because everyone in Walter's little circle is damaged in their own special way, including his British producer Celia (Dolly Wells), who struggles with insecurity, young Martin (Soni) or eager Shelly (Holland), and their damage impacts each other's, work tends to take something of a backseat to their drama. The same, unfortunately goes for the show's plot. There's something of a serialized storyline that connects the adventures of each episode over the course of the season, but for the most part the show is focused on who these people are, rather than what they do. As a result, there's not a lot of momentum to the series as the episodes progress, and the season finale arrives with a bit of a thud.
The cast gets the most out of this 10-episode character study, with Stewart doing his usual masterful job as Blunt. He's a joy to watch as he battles his demons and tries to make things better for those around him, but fails miserably. You only wish there was more for him to do than to imbibe and seduce. But even so, it's worth watching just to see him at work. The same goes for Holland and Soni, even if their parts are two of the smallest of the main cast (John Hodgman nearly gets more to do in his odd guest spot.) Despite that, they fit in well and have their spotlight moments of uncomfortable awkwardness in an office where HR's presence is desperately needed. Guest spots for Elisabeth Shue, Richard Lewis, Jason Schwartzman, Brett Gelman and Stewart's fellow Next Generation crewmate Brent Spiner round out a small but effective cast.
It'll be curious to see where Season Two talks Walter and company. It's going to have to find a new path to take the team on, because to continue to mine the character's foibles for another 10 half-hours will become tedious. It's time to see who they are by seeing more of what they do, rather than who.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for this show stick to the basic formula of putting the dialogue in the center channel, while utilizing the side and rear speakers to boost the show's music and deliver some sound effects. All elements come off clean and sufficiently powerful, though the atmospheric effects in the surrounds aren't particularly present in some scenes. When the music is pumping (as it is in a number of scenes, the low-end makes its presence well-known, putting you in the middle of the mix.
The remainder of the extras are short promos for the first season, including the overview "First Look" (1:58), the character-focused "Meet the News Room" (1:48) and one about Walter and Harry's relationship (1:05). The main actors all participate to talk about their parts.
The Bottom Line