First thoughts: "Mr. Sunshine"

Matthew Perry has never been able to escape from the shadow of Chandler Bing, the fount of sarcasm that he played for 10 years on Friends. Mr. Sunshine, his new passion project on ABC, seems to embrace that fact.

Perry plays Ben Donovan, the manager of a second-rate San Diego arena, who is entering the mid-life crisis that typically befalls people who call it The Big Four Oh. His boss Crystal is played by Allison Janney, who seems intent on pushing the limits of the zany boss trope. Rounding out the cast are Las VegasJames Lesure as Ben’s friend and polar opposite, Andrea Anders as his sometime-love interest, Portia Doubleday as his pyromaniacal assistant, and Nate Torrence as Crystal’s clueless son.

From the pilot, it’s obvious that the single-camera show is more Cougar Town than Modern Family. Perry is writing and producing the show alongside Alex Barnow and Marc Firek, the team behind the unremarkable sitcoms Rules of Engagement and ‘Til Death. The writing isn’t *that* bad, and there were a few oddball lines that get some laughs. Mostly, the show leans heavily on the comedic timing of Perry, Janney, and Anders (who was a gem on the short-lived Better Off Ted).

Here’s hoping the show can move beyond the de rigueur sitcom themes of commitment-phobic men and 40 year olds behaving badly. At the very least, it’s something to watch after Modern Family until Cougar Town returns.

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