'Love Monkey': Musical Tales of Manhattan

Television critic Andrew Wallenstein shares his thoughts about the new CBS television show Love Monkey, which follows the lives of four male friends as told through the eyes of a record executive scouting for the "next big thing" in Manhattan.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. From NPR News, I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick. TV shows like Sex in the City and Friends are gone, so the networks are rushing with new shows about urban single life. The latest is the new CBS drama, starting tonight--It's called Love Monkey. TV critic Andrew Wallenstein has this review.

Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Television Critic): Love Monkey stars Tom Cavanagh as Tom Farrell, a 30-something record executive who has an easier time connecting to music than the opposite sex. In this scene, a friend of Tom's, played by Jason Priestley, puts his finger on the problem.

Mr. JASON PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you and that woman in there have absolutely nothing in common.

Mr. TOM CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) Get out. We have plenty in common.

Mr. PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) Really?

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) Yeah.

Mr. PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) What?

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) We both love music.

Mr. PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) And?

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) We both love music.

Mr. PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) And?

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) We have plenty in common. Trust me.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Now, the premise might sound familiar. Love Monkey does play like a TV version of the movie High Fidelity, which starred John Cusack as a love-challenged audiophile. But as blatantly derivative as it is, Love Monkey drew me in because of Cavanagh, best known for his role as the small-town stud on NBC series, Ed. He transitions beautifully to the big city by doing something you rarely see on a broadcast TV series: he actually acts.

Cavanagh makes his role a fully fleshed-out character by conveying some depth and vulnerability in even the subtlest facial expressions. Cavanagh is also surrounded by a solid cast, who play the close group of pals who help him with his romantic struggles. They deliver the dialogue in the kind of rapid-clipped shorthand that doesn't seem to spring from a page but from a lifetime of genuine friendship. Here Tom, the eternal bachelor, gets challenged by a female friend played by Judy Greer.

Ms. JUDY GREER: (As Bran Lowenstein) Maybe if you stopped chasing after emotionally unstable vocalists...

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) They're not all vocalists. Lola played drums.

Ms. GREER: (As Bran Lowenstein) You can't keep swinging from branch to branch forever, Tom. Eventually you're going to have pick one and settle down.

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) Oh, come on. What is it with you and settling? I'm not going to just pick any old random branch. It has to be a smart, funny, pretty, sexually adept branch--the perfect branch.

Ms. GREER: (As Bran Lowenstein) 'You keep looking for the perfect branch, you're gonna end up one lonely monkey.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: But even for all the promise Love Monkey shows, I'm not sold just yet. It's one of a bunch of male-oriented Sex in the City-type shows out now, like Jake in Progress and Four Kings, that have an annoying tendency to traffic in guys' guy stereotypes. Too often, these shows fall back into the tiresome beer, babes, and baseball territory that rings especially false in Love Monkey.

Mr. PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) To never having to suffer through downward facing dog again. Watch as much sports as you want.

Mr. LARENZ TATE: (As Shooter Cooper) Eat a bacon burger without ridicule.

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) And if Giselle Bundchen-Bundchen should ever happen to hit on me, I, my friends, am available.

Mr. LARENZ TATE: (As Shooter Cooper) It's Bundchen, Giselle Bundchen.

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) It's Bundchen.

Mr. TATE: (As Shooter Cooper) It's Bundchen.

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) Just one? Cheers, guys. Cheers.

Mr. PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) The man loses his job and girlfriend back to back, and he's still out drinking. That shows strength of character.

Mr. CAVANAGH: (As Tom Farrell) Thank you.

Mr. TATE: (As Shooter Cooper) Welcome back, brother. You found your escape hatch. Well done.

Mr. PRIESTLEY: (As Mike Freed) Unless, of course, you want to marry the woman.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: I understand the temptation to make Cavanagh's character more of an everyman by resorting to this kind of Maxim magazine mentality, but its sensitive leading man seems more refined than that. I hope Love Monkey develops his potential over the long haul in more episodes. So you might say, I'm interested in the show, but not quite ready for a commitment.

CHADWICK: That review by television critic Andrew Wallenstein.

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