The kick of seeing Patrick Stewart — Sir Patrick Stewart, for heavens sake — being juvenile and naughty fades rather quickly in “Blunt Talk,” a comedy that casts the elegant actor as the boozing (among other things), often-divorced host of a cable news program, thus explaining the title. Yet if Stewart’s lusty performance approximates a daft cross between Larry King and Piers Morgan, it actually brings to mind series creator Jonathan Ames’ “Bored to Death,” if Ted Danson’s pill-popping sidekick, easily that show’s best element, was moved front and center. It’s an amusing idea, but one that yields diminishing returns.
The premiere starts with a rambunctious energy that temporarily promotes a sense of good will. Stewart’s Walter Blunt goes on a bender, sings rap and picks up a transgender prostitute. When the hooker politely asks if he’s troubled at all by who she is, he replies cheerfully, “No, I’m English.”
The adventure ends fantastically badly, at least for Blunt’s reputation. But from there, the series — which Ames produced with the seemingly ubiquitous Seth MacFarlane — pretty rapidly disintegrates, relying too heavily on Stewart’s madcap antics and an assortment of not particularly distinctive supporting players, including Walter’s sycophantic producers, Richard Lewis as his therapist and Romany Malco as the harried network boss.
Blunt’s most successful and key relationship is with his personal valet, Harry (Adrian Scarborough), who insists on calling him “Major” — vaguely referring to their service in the Falklands (take that, Bill O’Reilly) — essentially serving as the Cato to Stewart’s Inspector Clouseau. Yet by the second episode of the four previewed, Harry is being asked to do porn (a producer in that field having espied his unique, er, gift) as a trade-off to help secure equipment so that Walter can stage a video shoot from a natural disaster.
And so it goes. Ames certainly has a peculiar view of the world, and Stewart demonstrates himself to be an enormously good sport, appearing to relish both the incongruity of his playing such a role and the dearth of in-every-scene gigs for an actor in his mid-70s.
Despite its playful streak, though, “Blunt Talk” feels like it’s laboring too hard at being lewd and rude and, as an added drag, it doesn’t exhibit much savvy regarding the news genre it satirizes. Nobody’s asking for a reprise of “The Newsroom,” obviously, but the show within the show feels more like colorful scenery than an actual TV enterprise.
Starz is rolling out the program with the second season of “Survivor’s Remorse,” a better, but not terribly compatible, half-hour. And while Stewart’s charm will almost surely be enough to inspire some interest and have fans rooting for him, in terms of translating that into a vehicle worthy of his prodigious talents, just wishing — to spin a line from one of his previous roles — won’t make it so.