You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Blunt Talk’

Patrick Stewart, Adrian Scarborough, Timm Sharp, Dolly Wells, Jacki Weaver, Mary Holland, Karan Soni, Ed Begley Jr., Richard Lewis, Romany Malco

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.

TV Review: 'Blunt Talk'

(Series; Starz, Sat. Aug. 22, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by the Herring Wonder and Fuzzy Door Prods. in association with MRC.

Crew: Executive producers, Jonathan Ames, Seth MacFarlane, Stephanie Davis, Tristram Shapeero; co-executive producers, Duncan Birmingham, Reed Agnew, Eli Jorne; producers, Leanne Moore, Sam Sklaver, Patrick Stewart; director, Shapeero; writer, Ames; camera, Joseph E. Gallagher; production designer, Julie Walker; editor, Meg Reticker; music, Craig Wedren; casting, Jeanne McCarthy. 30 MIN.

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Adrian Scarborough, Timm Sharp, Dolly Wells, Jacki Weaver, Mary Holland, Karan Soni, Ed Begley Jr., Richard Lewis, Romany Malco

More TV

  • Imelda Staunton'Downton Abbey' photocall, Rome Film

    'The Crown' Has Not Cast Imelda Staunton for Seasons 5 and 6, Netflix Says

    Netflix is shooting down reports that Imelda Staunton is joining “The Crown.” “We are currently filming season 4 of ‘The Crown’ but have not commissioned any further seasons as yet, therefore any news on casting remains pure speculation,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. Staunton, known to many as the despicable Dolores Umbridge in [...]

  • Baby Yoda The Mandalorian

    Baby Yoda Merchandise to Debut Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season

    Purchase Baby Yoda toys, you will. Fans of the breakout character from the Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian” have been surprised that there was no merchandise pegged to the character available upon the launch of the show, given that the Christmas shopping season is rapidly approaching. But according to an individual with knowledge of the [...]

  • Sean "Diddy" Combs Revolt TV

    Sean Combs Slams 'Illusion of Economic Inclusion' at Comcast Amid Byron Allen Fight

    Sean Combs has come out swinging against Comcast in a lengthy statement prompted by the cable giant’s legal battle with Entertainment Studios chief Byron Allen. Combs accused Comcast of maintaining “the illusion of economic inclusion” in its handling of a carriage agreement with Combs’ Revolt TV channel. Combs was critical of Comcast for failing to [...]

  • Oprah Winfrey during a tribute to

    TV News Roundup: OWN Orders Celebrity Relationship Series '#LoveGoals'

    In today’s TV news roundup, OWN orders a new unscripted relationship series and Disney Channel orders new seasons of “The Owl House” and “Sydney to the Max.”  DATES ABC will live broadcast the “2020 NCAA Gymnastics Championship Final” on April 18. The semi finals will air the day before at 1 and 6 p.m. ET. [...]

  • Sissy book cover

    Showtime to Develop Series Based on Jacob Tobia Memoir 'Sissy' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Showtime is developing a half-hour dramedy based on Jacob Tobia’s memoir, Variety has learned exclusively. Tobia is a non-binary LGBTQ rights activist, actor, producer, and author. Their memoir, “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story,” was published earlier this year by Putnam Books at Penguin Random House. The series, currently titled “Sissy,” would follow Tobi Gibran, a non-binary college [...]

  • Invisible Stories from HBO Asia

    Singapore Festival: HBO Asia Tells ‘Invisible Stories’

    HBO Asia has expanded its burgeoning production slate with six-episode half-hour series “Invisible Stories.” The first two episodes of the show, “Lian” and “Chuan,” play at the Singapore International Film Festival on Nov. 28. The series is by writer and director Ler Jiyuan, who previously directed part of HBO Asia Original series “Grisse.” “Like 80% [...]

  • Jane Galloway Heitz

    'Glee' Actress Jane Galloway Heitz Dies at 78

    Jane Galloway Heitz, known for playing the character of Lillian Adler on “Glee,” has died, according to an obituary posted in the Chicago Tribune. She was 78. The actress only appeared in person twice on the Fox show, once in the pilot and on another occasion in 2015, as her character’s image appeared in a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content