“Trust Me” wants to achieve the kind of rat-a-tat dialogue that Aaron Sorkin created for his TV dramas, which might work considerably better if Sorkin were writing it. As is, this series set in the realm of creativity lacks a much-needed creative spark, and with “Mad Men” around, it at best qualifies for the dubious distinction of being TV’s second-best basic-cable program about advertising. A talented cast conjures a few interesting moments, but to use the show’s parlance, the client should probably put this account up for review.
Although this series from the (nonwriting) producers of TNT’s “The Closer” and FX’s “Nip/Tuck” bears a thematic resemblance to the latter — middle-aged pals joined in a professional endeavor — the workplace environment is closer to “thirtysomething,” while generally lacking that older show’s sophistication or the FX drama’s sizzle.
Part of the problem, as constructed by series creators Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny (both, not surprisingly, veteran ad guys), is that every character speaks with roughly the same voice. That includes the mismatched creative duo at the show’s center: Mason (Eric McCormack), the practical family man (“You’re the grownup,” he’s told flatly); and Conner (Tom Cavanagh), the free-spirited ladies man. They work together at an over-caffeinated, high-pressure Chicago ad agency, where their boss tells them at the outset, “Clients are idiots.”
Typical of a real ad agency, there’s tension among the account executives (or “suits,” helpfully designated by onscreen IDs as well as wardrobe) and the creative types. The latter behave like children and — in the case of new hotshot copywriter Sarah (Monica Potter) — obsess over details like her promised corner office.
The series certainly tries to cater to its advertising base — incorporating inside-baseball references to Adweek magazine and winning Clios, in addition to presenting a dismissive portrait of focus groups. Yet despite all the build-up to crafting a campaign that will wow a disgruntled client, the creative work depicted in the premiere and the second hour doesn’t seem clever enough to yield the desired effect.
While it’s nice to see McCormack and Cavanagh back in episodic form, their similarities diminish their interplay, inasmuch as it’s not a reach to envision both in either role. Everyone else pretty much falls into predictable archetypes, from the nerdy young creative team to Griffin Dunne as the constantly frazzled boss.
TNT will introduce the series behind “The Closer,” about as springy a launchpad as basic cable has to offer. Based on first impressions, however, “Trust Me” qualifies as an underwhelming addition to the Turner channel’s portfolio — worthy perhaps of a spot in the bullpen if the Mason-Conner dynamic evolves, but hardly a candidate for that big corner office.