Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.
So you've seen all of the new shows this fall - but what about the ones that didn't make the cut? For the next 30 days we're going to take a "first look" at a collection of 30 pilots that didn't land on the 2009-10 season schedule. Are there any gems that got passed over or are they all deservedly locked in the networks' vaults? Stay tuned.
THE END OF STEVE (Showtime)
(written by Matthew Perry & Peter Tolan; directed by Peter Tolan; TRT: 30:26)
What is it? A single-camera comedy about a narcissistic afternoon talk show host.
Who was behind it?: "Rescue Me" co-creator Peter Tolan penned the half-hour alongside star Matthew Perry. Tolan also directed.
The plot in a nutshell: We gave the script a pass earlier this year but once again here are the highlights (and more amusing quotes): Steve Legend (Matthew Perry) is the host of WNYD's "Steve!," the number one afternoon talk show in the greater Rochester, New York area. He is also an asshole of epic proportions. You need a racist, sexist or any other -ist comment, he's your guy. Thankfully he does his job well enough that his boss Martin Hu (an amusingly low-key Eddie Shin) tolerates his antics, including his incessant requests to fire his producer Lydia (Martha Plimpton). "So you're saying Lydia stays even though my show looks like it's being produced by Helen Keller," Steve pleads. "And I'm talking about the early Helen Keller too, not the one who went on to write books or ride a bicycle or whatever the fuck else she did."
Not surprisingly, Steve is friendless, his only companionship coming in the form of the hookers he hires to watch him fall asleep ("I'd be embarrassed about that but at least I'm not a whore," he explains to one of them). The closet thing he has to a friend is his battered assistant Nathan (Perry's "Studio 60" alum Nate Torrence), whom he endlessly insults and forces to take the blame for his screw-ups. Nathan however can't help him out of his latest mess: after he announces on the air that he's donating $25,000 to the Red Cross to help with the flood relief at Lake Lacoma, the Red Cross actually expects him to pay it. His theory: celebrities act as starters, they just say they're going to donate money and it inspires people to follow suit.
Even worse, he's caught explaining said theory on camera and quickly becomes a YouTube sensation. As punishment, Martin orders Steve to apologize and record a PSA for the Red Cross on his own time. And so after some soul searching - or at least a brief glimpse at what's left of his soul - he agrees. You see, the only thing Steve cares about besides himself is Emily Wayne ("Lost's" Kiele Sanchez), the network's morning show host. And while their meetings usually leave him tongue tied, after she mentions being impressed by his donation, he has no choice but to follow through with his punishment.
What works: Matthew Perry is always a treat to watch - he has a comedic patent on sarcasm. Not surprisingly watching him be an asshole is a lot of fun: "I'm not going to have sex with you...," he explains to Melinda ("Gossip Girl's" Dreama Walker), a 16-year-old girl who lives in his building and wants him to be her first time. "For another 517 days then it's 'Happy Birthday' and I'm right in there." Unfortunately...
What doesn't: ...this is case of things not always playing as well once they are actually filmed. The opening three minutes alone, which feature Matthew Perry and Martha Plimpton dropping a half-dozen c-bombs, is far more off-putting on the screen than it is on the page. Part of the problem is that all of Steve's comments skew more towards downright mean than hopelessly self-absorbed and clueless. (Another example: "How can they book a guy from the Red Cross on the show and not have footage of Africans sliding off their rooftops?" Steve complains to one of his hookers. "This is the kind of bullshit I deal with a daily basis.") The other part is that Steve's lack of redeeming qualities definitely frays the edges around the show.
"The End of Steve" is essentially Steve is an asshole, Steve is even more of an asshole, Steve becomes even more of an asshole by trying to cover up for being an asshole, Steve feels bad for himself for 30 seconds and Steve pretends not to be an asshole when he really is an asshole. (Yes, I'm aware this is probably using the word asshole too much in a review.) Or to put another way, Steve's brief reflection on his behavior in the closing act (he admits to himself that he's in exile because he probably self-destructed his shot at going national... by calling Katie Couric the t-word that's used instead of the c-word) isn't enough to really excuse or even rationalize his behavior for the past half-hour. As mentioned previously, "Steve" was going to be a hard sell and if anybody was going to pull it off, Perry and Tolan would.
The bottom line: It's unfortunate then that they didn't.