Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 1, 2016)
For the first time since Star Trek: The Next Generation left the air in 1994, Patrick Stewart stars in an episodic TV series. 2015’s Blunt Talk features Stewart as Walter Blunt, an opinionated Brit who heads his own American TV newscast. The 2-DVD set offers all 10 of Season One’s episodes, with synopses straight from the Talk website.
I Seem to Be Running Out of Dreams For Myself: “After a drunken escapade lands Walter in jail, he must scramble to save his cable news show ‘Blunt Talk’ from cancellation.”
Very early in this premiere episode, Talk threatens to go clever-clever on us, as we get a cameo from one of Stewart’s former co-stars. It’s not a fatal misstep but it’s too cute for its own good, as is the decision to put Harry on “UBS”, the same moniker used for the network in Network.
The rest of “Dreams” largely follows suit, as the episode feels too in love with its own bawdiness, like Stewart wants to badly to play a badly flawed character that everything else becomes secondary. Some funny moments result – I do like Walter’s “self-interview” – but overall, “Dreams” seems mediocre.
I Experience Shame and Anticipate Punishment: “Walter misses an opportunity to cover a storm that could revitalize his career, so his staff concocts a Plan B. Harry (Adrian Scarborough) must make a personal sacrifice to save Walter's career.”
While not quite a great episode, S1 shows promise with the mostly amusing “Shame”. The show offers good slapstick when Harry finds himself tormented by automation in an airport bathroom, and a few other bits amuse. After the lackluster pilot, “Shame” gives me hope.
All My Relationships End in Pain: “Walter is ordered by the court to attend AA meetings while his staff goes about their peculiar weekends.”
In terms of quality, “Pain” betters “Dreams” but works less well than “Shame”. It suffers from too much self-conscious oddness, but it still delivers some laughs, so that turns it into a largely effective show, if not one that seems as strong as its immediate predecessor.
A Beaver That's Lost Its Mind: “Walter makes a valiant attempt at being a better father to his youngest son, only to be crushed by news that his ex-wife is dating a rock star (Moby).”
With “Beaver”, the show reverts to the self-conscious wackiness that marred the first episode. That doesn’t mean it lacks any humor, but it fails to become especially involving.
The Queen of Hearts: “When a friendly poker game goes awry, Rosalie (Jacki Weaver) is forced to book a controversial guest whose message Walter despises. Celia (Dolly Wells) develops a bad habit.”
“Queen” continues the erratic pattern of the last few shows. Like those, it comes with a few good moments, but it also seems so delighted by its own indulgent fascination with quirks that it can become irritating. Halfway through the season, I’m not unhappy with the series but I’m not as pleased with it as I’d like.
Goodnight, My Someone: “When Walter's estranged son (Daniel Stewart) returns to LA for a boxing match, Walter aims to make peace with him. Celia gets pulled into the family drama.”
With the brief arrival of older son Rafe, “Someone” actually manages a little emotion, a concept in short supply the snarky during prior episodes. Parts of the show fizzle – such as the obsession with circumcision – but I do appreciate the program’s gentle, non-sentimental ending.
Meth Or No Meth, You Still Gotta Floss: “Walter joins Rosalie on a mission to find her missing husband (Ed Begley Jr.). Meanwhile, Jim (Timm Sharp) must step into Walter's shoes.”
After the more substantial feel of the last episode, “Meth” goes back to the series usual wacky-wacky ways, and that provokes diminishing returns. Some significant moments emerge but these lack impact because of the overly goofy orientation, so the attempts at emotion fall flat.
Who Kisses So Early in the Morning?: “Celia makes a blunder that unfavorably thrusts Walter back into the public eye.”
“Kisses” presages the hubbub about Melania Trump’s RNC speech, and that gives it a timeliness it might not otherwise have. It also manages to poke at the endless one-upsmanship the Internet presents. Parts of the show flop, but it still manages a bit more charge than usual.
I Brought A Petting Goat!: “Walter throws an epic party to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the end of the Falklands War.”
As the season nears its end, “Goat” uses Walter’s party as an excuse to bring many characters together in one place – and to ratchet up various connections and relationships. Some of these work better than others, but I do appreciate the show’s attempt to be a little more meaningful and less goofy.
Let's Save Central Florida! Let's Save Midtown!: “Walter visits an unconventional specialist and then bumps a volatile guest with disastrous results.”
Season One ends with typical wackiness via the “eco-terrorist” who kidnaps Walter. This means a show with some amusement – Jason Schwartzman amuses as the nutbag – but it doesn’t quite coalesce. This means the season concludes on a somewhat limp note, as “Save” doesn’t seem to know how to end things with any clarity.