A character-driven little dramedy, “Love Monkey” seems destined to pay for CBS’ crimes. Adapted from Kyle Smith’s bestseller, the series is a light, “Jerry Maguire”-esque romp, with a nice turn by Tom Cavanaugh as a thirtysomething music executive whose life undergoes a makeover as he’s bounced from his job developing new talent and separated from his girlfriend. Problem is that this kind of material feels incongruous with CBS’ procedural-laden lineup, where most relationships begin around a chalk outline. As such, this alternative brand of rock should be a tough sell.
That isn’t to say that “Love Monkey” (a confusing title, by the way, though it may attract fans of Animal Planet) is without its flaws, not the least being that it’s another heavily voiced-over concoction, where the protagonist — in the throes of a not-quite-midlife crisis — spends a lot of time inside his head.
Still, Tom (Cavanaugh) is a genial enough sort, with an amusing and well-cast support system, including the married Mike (Jason Priestley), onetime baseball star Jake (Christopher Wiehl), the well-heeled Shooter (Larenz Tate) and platonic friend Bran (Judy Greer).
Tom’s an A&R rep who travels extensively hunting for new acts, providing a fertile tie-in to make music a significant part of the show. In his “Maguire” moment, Tom mouths off about passion to his boss Phil (Eric Bogosian), who tosses him out on his ear as soon as the applause dies down. Thus begins a competition to sign the new act Tom has discovered who becomes the complete focal point of his foundering career.
Cavanaugh has a breezily likable quality that served him well through the “Ed” experience, and he’s again presented with a dream girl, Julia, played by “Mind of the Married Man’s” Ivana Milicevic, who has made quite a career being the obsessive fantasy of middle-aged dudes.
Familiar as it all sounds, series creator Michael Rauch plucks most of the right chords, and there are even a few unexpected notes among Tom’s cadre of friends and associates that appear to offer some fertile dramatic riffs.
Alas, for all that, CBS will have to get people to sample “Love Monkey” in the first place (after its premiere, the show temporarily fills “The Amazing Race’s” seat), then find the program a permanent home, which both sound like very tall orders in the network’s crime-ridden jungles — especially with the Olympics looming on NBC.
Perhaps Tom should trip over a dead body on the way to work in the second hour and then have the camera zoom through his kidneys, just to make regular CBS drama viewers feel at home.