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'Blunt Talk' review: Patrick Stewart as a newsman in odd series

Patrick Stewart as Walter Blunt in the pilot

Patrick Stewart as Walter Blunt in the pilot for Starz' "Blunt Talk." Photo Credit: Starz Entertainment LLC / Justina Mintz

THE SHOW "Blunt Talk"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Saturday night at 9 on Starz

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Patrick Stewart is Walter Blunt. He's a British cable news host now howling in America. He drinks, he picks up transvestite hookers, he gobbles chocolate marijuana. As his loyal British manservant, Harry (Adrian Scarborough), observes, he often finds himself "in a spot of bother."

Walter fought in the Falklands War. He likes to "spoon" with his producer (Jacki Weaver). He quotes Shakespeare and devises artsy show ideas from "a Bunuel movie." He's got a fab Hollywood estate, where he paints Harry in the nude by the pool. He gets flummoxed by airport toilets.

And always, but always, "Remember the Falklands."

MY SAY Do those sentences seem disjointed, haphazard, meaningless? Welcome to "Blunt Talk." If you can't tell what it's about, join the club. So it's no surprise to find that "Family Guy" scattershot king Seth MacFarlane is an executive producer. Meanwhile, series creator Jonathan Ames (HBO's "Bored to Death") has spouted to the press about loving Paddy Chayefsky's scathing satire "Network" -- the eerily prescient '70s film that did everything but spell T-R-U-M-P to foretell the TV news cycle in which we now find ourselves.

It goes without saying, their twain shall not meet in this vexing Starz half-hour. Chayefsky, acclaimed writer of early TV's live dramas ("Marty"), seemed to summon "Network" from deep within himself, after 25 years in the industry he was assailing, seeing its best minds ground down by commercial gears. MacFarlane makes millions stringing random jokes into juvenile cartoon-coms. See the difference?

Ames can't knit it together, though fairness requires noting "Blunt Talk" is delivered comedically tone-deaf and rhythm-free. After the stupefying episodes 1 and 2, his who-are-these-people characters coalesce a bit in episodes 3 and 4. Yet, why we should follow their antics remains unclear. Is Blunt's news crew actually interested in journalism? Are they any good at it? What motivates Blunt, and why do people watch him? Is this just a dysfunctional family, or is there a broader point behind the humor? Starz has ordered 20 episodes (to run across two seasons), so maybe we'll see.

If, in fact, we still care.

BOTTOM LINE "Blunt Talk" aspires to "Network's" kinetically brilliant madness. It arrives a limp and muddled mess.



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