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Truth (and Lies) in Advertising: An Advance Review of TNT's "Trust Me"

It's rather easy at first glance to draw comparisons between TNT's new drama series Trust Me, which launches tonight, and AMC's award-winning period drama Mad Men.

Though Trust Me is set in the present day, both series are set in advertising agencies and seek to capture a photograph of the society in which they inhabit. After all, advertising needs to speak to its buyers and what better way than by reflecting people's dreams, fears, hopes, and excesses?

Unlike Mad Men, Trust Me, created by The Closer's Hunt Baldwin and John Covent, attempts to take a more humorous approach and seeks to mine its agency setting to maximum comic effect.

While it's essentially an ensemble piece about the employees of Chicago's Rothman, Greene & Moore agency, the real heart of the series is the relationship between a pair of best friends and partners, mature and level-headed Mason McGuire (Eric McCormack) and creative manboy Conner (Tom Cavanagh) as they pitch, whine, fight, make up, and scheme.

Sadly, these two are less than convincingly drawn. Conner is especially irritating at times, particularly in the pilot episode, and one can't help but feel that we've seen Cavanagh essentially play the same immature, self-absorbed character several times before on other series. When Mason is picked for promotion by boss Tony Mink (Griffin Dunne) after the death of the comically irate Stu (Jason O'Mara), Conner goes on the warpath and calls their partnership quits... but we are never really privy to any displays of why Conner thinks he would be worthy of advancement or his genius skills as an ad writer. Indeed, he's portrayed as a shallow buffoon who happens to come up with some fairly decent copy... often during sex.

Adding to the characters' lack of sympathy is Monica Potter's Sarah Krajicek-Hunter, a completely unlikeable award-winning copywriter who joins the firm from one of their rivals and drones on endlessly about her lack of a window office, as she's forced to sit in a cubicle. (Given the nation's mounting unemployment rate, this doesn't paint her in a particularly sympathetic light these days.) She's also irritatingly dour, has an aversion to working on shampoo ads, and we're told by her old boss (Adam Scott) that she believes every man is hitting on her. Yep, that's about as deep as her characterization goes, except for the fact that her old boss hates her. I'm glad to see that he's not the only one.

In the two episodes provided for review, the series comes off as about half as clever as it thinks it is. The ads that Conner and Mason concoct are really not that intelligent and when Mason saves the day at a client meeting with a brainstorm of an idea, it's actually quite a terrible ad that he's envisioned. (I was hoping that this scene would have been reworked when the producers recut the original pilot and altered the opening.) And Mason's input of a tagline--What can you do with one hand?--for a mobile phone company was slightly amusing for its sophomoric double entendre... until the second episode when it becomes clear that no one--not Mason, not Conner, not the client--never noticed that it could be a barely concealed reference to self-love.

Seriously?

If Trust Me is going to work as a dramedy series, it needs to find a way to make these characters far more intelligent and three-dimensional than they're initially presented and find a way to really mine their situation and environment for outrageous and unexpected humor. As it is, Trust Me plays it way too safe and doesn't, as that very same client sadly tells Mason, make me at all nervous in a good way.

Trust Me launches tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on TNT.

Comments

Anonymous said…
The ad campaigns in Mad Men are truly clever and engaging and I think that they have to be for the audience to believe in that world. I can't imagine watching a show (even a comedy) set in the advertising world where the ad campaigns were unoriginal or just plain silly. Definitely not a good sign!
Anonymous said…
Can't wait to see Jason O'Mara's cameo in this show. I'll probably wait till 4 episodes air before returning to see if the characters jell more and are less irritating.

Just like a new resaurant...
Asta said…
I'm watching the premiere right now and couldn't agree with you more. I have plenty of TV shows on my plate and won't be bothering to tune in again to this next week.
Anonymous said…
Watched it last night. Won't be watching again.
Samantha Hunter said…
I'm not sure I liked it, but I didn't hate it. I'll keep watching.

From what I see of existing commercials, it's easy to believe that most ad agencies pull ideas out of their backsides and that bad ideas get produced. No stretch there.

Most of Cavanagh's scenes seemed completely ridiculous, but I wonder where they might take him.

Maybe it's the utter confusion that's drawing me in.

I would be less trusting if they were all brilliantly creative and clever, I suppose. It's more interesting that they are so dysfunctional and sort of weird. I think there's potential for the characters to go somewhere, maybe.

Sam
Anonymous said…
Seriously this was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard this:

"What can you do with one hand?--a reference to self-love.
Anonymous said…
Love Jason O'mara's, to bad he dies.

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