Pop Culture Gadabout
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
      ( 1/24/2006 03:01:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"DID SHE JUST QUOTE STING IN THE MIDDLE OF BREAKING UP WITH ME?" – Gotta admit it's hard not watching the debut of Love Monkey without making the a mental comparison to Ed: lead Tom Cavanagh utilizes the same muttery quip-ish delivery he established in the Stuckeyville dramedy, and the focus of both shows is on his character's romantic travails. Perhaps the biggest immediate difference resides in the fact that where Cavanagh's Ed breezed through the pilot with a very specific goal (the pursuit of the once-unattainable Carol Vessey), his Tom Farrell is more at loose ends. He's fussy and opinionated – as an Artists & Repertoire man in the music biz, this is a plus ("It's my job to listen to crap," he tell the audience at one point, "so that you don't have to"), but as friend Bran (Judy Greer) points out, it can be a definite minus when it comes to the male/female relationship thing.

Where Ed, for all its digressions and secondary character moments, had one clear-cut destination – the consummation of the Ed & Carol romance – Love Monkey is a skosh less straightforward. Whether this'll help the show or not (at times you could really feel Ed's writers struggling to insert fresh complications into Ed & Carol's lives) is an open question, but at least the new Monkey has what promises to be a diverting supporting cast. (No Lesley Boone, of course, but that's my personal heartbreak to bear.) In addition to the ever-watchable Greer, our hero has a trio of smartly bantering Manchildish friends, including Jason Priestley's Mike, the Married Man in the group. If their dialog occasionally comes across as a bit too sharp to be true, better to be too smart than to engage in the weak-ass one-up-manship characterized by, oh, Four Kings.

The show has another element designed to appeal to us pop nerds in the audience: hero Tom's role as an A&R rep in the Music Biz. The first hour was packed with the kind of details and one-liners that a one-time subscriber to the New York Rocker like myself will dig – a trip backstage to CBGB's, a visit to the alley where Dylan held those cardboard signs for "Subterranean Homesick Blues," and so on. In one of the better running rock gags, both Tom and the possible-object-of-his-future-affections Julia (Ivana Milicevic) hold up a copy of the two-disc Essential Bob Dylan and state matter-of-factly, "It's everything he ever recorded." A perfect rock-geek joke, right down to the purist self-assurance imbedded in the punchline. Rob, the narrator hero of High Fidelity would've probably laughed at it, but he'd also would've felt obliged to point out that Dylan & the Dead was a load of crap . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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