If you’re one of the many around the world who have long been in love with the work of master thespian Sir Patrick Stewart, hearing he has a new play or film in the works is always good news. All the better, then, for his fans to discover he is starring as the lead character Walter Blunt in edgy the new Starz comedy, BLUNT TALK, which starts today in the US, and is the first comedy series in which he has starred.
Clearly the producers at Starz are no fools. They know his fairly wide fanbase will give a chance to anything new. In this case, they are giving a chance of watching the actor behave badly playing a character that seems forever in the middle of personal and professional crisis of his own irresponsible making. In the first episode alone we see Blunt snort coke, suckle at a transgender prostitute’s breast, and spoon for comfort with his producer, a duty she is clearly called upon to do for him on a regular basis.
The series, conceived by Jonathan Ames, novelist and creator of TV’s BORED TO DEATH, is about a British news anchor with a failing political talk show a la HARDBALL or ANDERSON COOPER 360, living in Los Angeles with his enabling valet. It is produced by Seth MacFarlane, with whom Stewart worked as a voice actor on the animated series FAMILY GUY. BLUNT TALK offers an opportunity to see Stewart playing a different role than ever before, and as all actors and Stewart himself will tell you, doing comedy well is the mark of a great actor. At the very least, the premiere of Blunt Talk has allowed for a slew of interviews with Stewart bluntly sharing shocking little tidbits from his own life.
Having only seen the first two episodes, which were released in advance of the first episode’s premiere on August 22nd, it’s hard for this critic to predict how the whole season will shape up. That being said, so far Patrick Stewart as Walter Blunt is a delight in each moment, as are the characters we’ve gotten to see interact with him. In particular Adrian Scarborough as his manservant Harry is wonderful, and their relationship is quite sweet. In fact, as edgy as the show seems, and as much of a hot mess Blunt and Harry are, it is the sweetness cutting through the craziness that will likely hook the viewers. Stewart makes Blunt likable, which is no small feat given how flamboyantly irresponsible and self destructive he is. We don’t get to see much of Jacki Weaver as producer Rosalie Winter in the first two episodes, but hopefully not only she, but other featured actors will have their characters developed, create more foils for Blunt. It will be essential, serving to expand storylines and maintain viewer interest longterm. Also, judging by the short but entertaining scenes in the first episodes, we will need Richard Lewis as Dr Weiss, Blunt’s pill pimping psychiatrist, to show up as often as possible. BLUNT TALK is the sort of show that will build a lot of fans familiar with dysfunction, and by extension, the world of therapy. Walter Blunt could certainly use more talk therapy and less drug therapy.
Comparisons to the film NETWORK, and more recently the TV show THE NEWSROOM will be inevitable, but BLUNT TALK should be taken for its own merit, especially as it highlights so many actors long lauded onstage. Patrick Stewart, aided by these great costars, profiles a walking disaster who may or may not blunder his way into or out of a position of power and prestige. While Blunt happens to be a newsman, his story could take place in any atmosphere where power and fame are factors. Stewart and Scarborough play Blunt and Harry straight, approaching their roles with compassion. That demands the audience laugh with, not at their characters, regardless of the situation. If they can get the viewers firmly in Blunt’s corner, they may well have themselves a hit that has appeal way beyond the many fans practiced in saying “Make it so”.