TV Review: ‘Donny!’

Donny TV Review USA Network
Patrick Harbron/USA Network

Designed as a vehicle for ad-man-turned-personality Donny Deutsch, “Donny!” wants to be “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and in terms of comedy series built around people who didn’t need one, comes a whole lot closer to “Emeril.” USA describes the show as “soft-scripted,” which is an insult to both writing and softness, given how blunt most of the jokes are. Other than Deutsch’s desire to demonstrate how he looks with his shirt off, which happens with unexpected frequency, it’s difficult to see what he, or USA, saw in this campaign, but the account should be put up for review.

Like “Curbed,” Deutsch is playing a tweaked (or really, more like torqued) version of himself, a megalomaniacal daytime talk-show host along the lines of “Dr. Phil.” The secret, naturally, is that Donny wouldn’t be able to do much of anything without his patient producer (Emily Tarver) spouting advice into his earpiece, or the trio of personal assistants on hand to attend to his every need.

Well, not every need. There’s a Russian model (Tina Casciani) for that, with whom he insists on indulging in role-playing sex games, like “Putin and the bad ice skater.” In the premiere, Donny hosts an episode with a woman who texted naked pictures of herself, then – after admonishing her – does the same, inadvertently sending a “sext” meant for his gal pal to a third party.

Created by Angie Day and Deutsch (who share writing credit on the premiere), the program synergistically draws on cameos from other NBCUniversal talent, including MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” anchors and “Today’s” Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb in the first and second episodes, respectively. But the kick of self-satirizing attempts to mock pampered, self-absorbed media types – such as Deutsch picking up his kids with a driver – feels about as dated as those “Where’s the beef?” ads. (Speaking of ads, Deutsch’s willingness to stop the show dead in its tracks to deliver them doesn’t help matters either, proving more confusing than cheeky.)

Frankly, if Deutsch wasn’t at the center of the whole exercise, the show (which is being paired with “Chrisley Knows Best”) would probably have been built around his producer, who has to tell him that he can’t keep returning to lesbians as a topic, shamelessly flirt with guests or pretend to have cancer just to goose his ratings. Of course, that would have been “30 Rock,” instead of what emerges, which is a watered-down version of Starz’s “Blunt Talk,” already a watered-down version of “The Larry Sanders Show.”

The second episode focuses on Donny needing to find an age-appropriate celebrity to date, somewhat amusingly running through a list of names before he lands on Christie Brinkley. Yet even that takes a disappointing turn, when the topic turns to, er, personal grooming.

There’s some shaving that needs to be done here, all right. But if USA tried to pare “Donny!” down to its worthwhile bits — the few that could inspire any sort of enthusiasm — most could pretty easily fit inside a 30-second spot.

TV Review: 'Donny!'

(Series; USA, Tue. Nov. 10, 10:30 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in New York by Left/Right Prods.

Crew

Executive producers, Angie Day, Banks Tarver, Ken Druckerman, Donny Deutsch; producers, Kevin Vargas, Chris Savage; director, Mike Lahaie; writers, Day, Deutsch; camera, Rob Barocci; production designer, Theo Sena; music, Matt McLarty; casting, Brette Goldstein. 30 MIN.

Cast

Donny Deutsch, Emily Tarver, Hailey Giles, Tina Casciani

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  1. mschu says:

    I loved Donny! and so did every single person I know that watched the show. We want Season 2!

  2. Deborah says:

    I liked Donny! a lot! Having watched Donny on Morning Joe for years, it’s great to see him on his own show. Give this show a chance. Many great shows were a little weak in their first year. It really depicts many realistic topics. I like the fact that Donny can make fun of himself. We need more people like that.

  3. Pamina says:

    I just watched the show for the first time and loved it. If this reviewer would have spent less time trying to show how “with it” he was by coming up with the tedious list of other shows to unfavorably compare it to, and simply watched and judged Donny on its own merits, perhaps he might have found the humor in it too. I think your reviewer needs a long vacation, as his blase, seen it all attitude pervades the entire review and tells more about the reviewer then the show.

  4. artmichael says:

    The show is hilarious. It makes fun of a man that is hopelessly self centered, disingenuous and immensely successful.. (Who does that remind us of?) He has become wealthy by hosting a super-politically-correct daytime television show, while in reality treating being PC as simply a gimmick …. The staff are hysterical – great comic performances.

  5. With Deutsch’s personal wealth (and ego) it wouldn’t surprise me if some Donny funding helped make the show happen. Regardless, the question is; Who’s the audience?
    My guess… a small handful of hardcore DD fans and older, gay men. Probably not a big enough audience to carry the show. But, hey, you can’t blame the guy (and USA) for trying.

  6. Dyannen W says:

    C’mon, the show was very cute, and I almost believed your review until you made note of his car with a driver. He earned it. At least he can laugh at himsef. Can you?

  7. David Klann says:

    Well, us plebians cannot watch Episode 2 yet, so I can’t comment on that. But the first episode was a delightful little yarn.

    I’ve read a few internet reviews, and each struck me as being written by people more concerned with what their readers/fellow reviewers would say and think of them were they to admit Donny Deutsch made a comedy that’s funny enough to watch. Petrified of writing the lone positive review on Metacritic, and facing a relentless stream of passive-aggressive bullying by their peers.

    Note: Typically I find the VAST majority of television comedies to be absolutely dreadful. And to give you an idea whether your brain is similar to my own:

    Currently running comedies I DO like: Louie; Portlandia; Survivor’s Remorse; The Comeback; Fox News; Curb Your Enthusiasm; The Muppets (there are probably one or two more, but these are top of head).

    Currently running comedies which I find JUST good enough to watch: Brooklyn/99; New Girl (Yeah, I’ll take one for the team and admit it. Though it DOES have the Sword of Damocles perched perilously above it… and the horse hair is fraying rapidly.

    Well, I hope that helped somebody decide whether or not to try it. It’s my altruistic deed of the day. Ayn Rand can die. Again.

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