(Every so often, I write about random shows I liked at various stages of my life that most people probably don't think about that often. This will eventually give me a chance to finally write about Dave's World. Be forewarned.)
When Trust Me debuted in 2009, all anybody wanted to do was compare it to Mad Men. This was, in some respects, fair. It's not as if advertising agencies are natural settings for TV dramas, to be sure, and Trust Me was only the second, seemingly trying to coast off the AMC hit's good buzz (if not exactly stellar ratings). It also didn't help that one of Trust Me's stars, Geoffrey Arend, just happened to be engaged to, then married to, one of Mad Men's stars, Christina Hendricks.
But the comparisons of Mad Men to Trust Me were barking up the wrong tree. No, what Trust Me was trying to do was be the best Aaron Sorkin show Aaron Sorkin never produced.
All of the signs were there. It was about a troubled pairing of two white men, who struggled to combat professional malaise and personal torpor, all while attempting to do great work. They were men who longed to do something capital-E Excellent, while working in a profession that mostly seemed to be compromised by, well, being advertising. It was full of quick-witted banter and people walkin' around being snappy and Monica Potter playing the woman who is more of a symbol than a character.
Trust Me was not very good, but it was strangely entertaining, a simulacrum of good television that managed to adequately copy it here and there, just long enough, to keep me watching all 13 episodes. I can't tell you a damn thing about the plots or characters (beyond knowing that one of the guys was married and one was a bachelor, because of course they were), but I can remember the feel of watching it, which was light and breezy and filled with vague importance that never kicked over into actual importance. It was like a Sports Night with lower stakes, that thought it had higher stakes. So Studio 60, but somehow not as irritating as that show.
Nobody watched the thing, as it came in the middle of TNT building itself into a cable powerhouse on the back of same-y crime dramas that were all solid but also largely forgettable (give or take a lead performance from Kyra Sedgwick that was so off-the-charts bizarre that it was hard to ignore). In fact, the network took the unprecedented step of more or less burning the show off, airing the final six episodes on three separate nights, rather than across six weeks.
It was also, I think, a tribute to how much a TV show can coast off just casting. Tom Cavanaugh and Eric McCormick were great fun as the two guys at the show's center. Potter received some criticism, but that had more to do with her character than her performance, which was fine. Arend and Mike Damus were solid as the quirky coworkers. Sarah Clarke was there as the Wife, a cable drama type who was already getting tired in 2009, but, hey, hiring Clarke to play her can't hurt. And Griffin Dunne as the boss! Everybody loves Griffin Dunne!
Trust Me is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a great show. It's probably not even a good show. But I think I kept watching it (and was a little sad to find I would have to pay over $20 to download it at Amazon) because it presented something that TV doesn't have nearly enough of -- breezy competence.
Critics complain a lot when TV shows don't have dramatic stakes, or when they just feel like hangout series, or something like that. And, to be sure, I'm usually one of those critics. I think it's a lot easier, particularly in the binge age, to watch something that has an endlessly compelling dramatic hook.
But I also think we've always needed palate cleansers, and Trust Me was a great one. It was, in every sense, a trifle, and it probably needed to be a lot better than that to justify its existence. But, dammit, sometimes you want to watch TV to see attractive people be clever in each other's general directions. That was what Trust Me had, and that's what I most miss about it.
See, as it turned out, the spring of 2009 was a time when I needed a palate cleanser. My marriage was falling apart, I didn't have a job, and it looked like I was going to be moving to Oklahoma City to write technical copy for a medical devices company. The economy was in the toilet, too, which didn't help. (This is all true.)
So when I say that I don't remember Trust Me for anything other than its feel, maybe what I mean is that I most remember how it made me feel. I'm sure I would be more critical of it now if I watched it, but, then, I could afford to be more critical now. The marriage was fixed. The job was found. Oklahoma City remains an alternate life not explored. Trust Me was a life raft when I needed a life raft. And sometimes, that's all we need TV to do -- keep us buoyed until we can see rescue on the horizon.
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Episodes is published at least three times per week, and more if I feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox Dot Com.