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TV Review: 'Love Monkey' swings on sophistication
Sunday, January 15, 2006

CBS's "Love Monkey" is the show ABC's "Jake in Progress" aspired to be in its first season: A sophisticated comedy-drama about a guy looking for love.


TV Review
"Love Monkey"
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday, CBS
Starring: Tom Cavanaugh

Granted, suited-up John Stamos on "Jake" is far more suave and smooth; Tom Cavanagh is more of a jeans and iPod guy, but many of the themes are similar. With Cavanagh ("Ed") as the star, "Love Monkey" might be dubbed "Ed in Progress."

Cavanagh portrays Tom Ferrell, an up-and-coming record label executive who likes relationships but is fearful of commitment. At the same time, he realizes he "can't keep swinging from branch-to-branch" and he'll have to settle down, but he's looking for just the right woman.

"You keep looking for the perfect branch, you're going to end up one lonely monkey," warns Tom's best friend, Brandy (Judy Greer), a Carol Vessey blonde he should be dating. Instead, Tom wastes his time on another woman he has little in common with and whose music he finds revolting. ("She listens to Jewel and weeps, while I prefer music," Tom says in ever-present narration that seems to have seeped into almost every prime-time show this season.)

Music fans -- and fans of the John Cusack film "High Fidelity" -- will particularly enjoy Tom's view of the world, in which he describes himself as a crime fighter.

"Crime in this case being really bad music," he says. "Because for every bad band you hear on the radio, there are a million worse bands trying to get on the radio. So it's my job to listen to this crap so you don't have to."

That's a lot like a TV critic's job many days, but not when it comes to "Love Monkey" (10 p.m. Tuesday, KDKA), a thoroughly enjoyable series, the kind that makes you smile throughout and occasionally burst out laughing. The pilot plays like an indie movie, which makes me fearful of its odds on the decidedly un-indie-like CBS.

At work, Tom is on a hot streak, and he's angling to keep that going by signing a young singer-songwriter who he believes has true potential. Tom cares about music and not profit, so he's encouraged when his boss tells the record label's staff to not only think outside the box, but to "imagine the box is infected with some kind of terrible flesh-eating disease. That's how freaking far I want you from it."

It's this kind of snappy, evocative dialogue that makes "Love Monkey" whir along its merry course. Although I've made some "Ed" comparisons, the only one that really holds is likable Cavanagh. Where "Ed" was a storybook fantasy, "Love Monkey" is more gritty and realistic. And Tom is not as much of a naive, innocent romantic as Ed was, but he's still an easy-to-like guy; women will swoon, guys will want to be his bud.

Greer is a chameleon-like actress, perhaps best known to TV devotees for her zany role as Kitty on Fox's "Arrested Development." She's much more down-to-earth in "Love Monkey," playing Tom's tell-it-to-him-straight pal who wishes she was something more. She's less cutesy than Carol Vessey (Julie Bowen's character on "Ed") and more believable.

Tom has several close guy friends on the show, including Mike Freed (Jason Priestley, finally playing all grown-up), who's married to Tom's sister, Karen (Katherine Lanasa). There's also pro baseball player turned sports writer Jake (Christopher Wiehl, "Playmakers") and supportive Shooter (Larenz Tate), who introduces the concept of Grant's Law, which states that no matter how perfect a woman is, a guy will always want something else. (The principle is named after Hugh Grant's infidelity when he hired a prostitute while dating Elizabeth Hurley.)

"If that's not the ultimate proof we as man can never be satisfied, I don't know what is," Shooter says.

"Love Monkey" is a smart, character-driven show, the kind that's totally out-of-sync with CBS's procedural crime dramas. Fans of quality drama, take note: Swing with this "Monkey" while you can.

First published on January 15, 2006 at 12:00 am
TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at TV Q&A.
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