Review: Trust Me, Monica Potter is the Breakout Star

Even the title asks a lot of viewers.

Like AMC's Emmy-winning Mad Men, the series is set in a powerful advertising firm. End of similarities. While Mad Men comments on the world and mores of the 1960s through the lens of a booming new industry, Trust Me is about the self-centered world of pampered rock stars in a declining economy.

Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh play buddies (and creative partners) Mason and Conner in Trust Me, which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday on TNT. Mason provides the straight-man role and Conner acts out as the comic relief; Mason's on his way up the corporate ladder, while rebel Conner remains behind. Conner's a little bitter. Mason's a little apologetic.

Neither character is outside the wheelhouse of these actors. Despite McCormack's claim that even if he was playing a Hispanic drug dealer, someone would think it was "so Will," his role here is in fact not that far afield from his

Will & Grace

character. Mason wears the sensible shoes and is married to Erin (Sarah Clarke) instead of Taye Diggs' character James.

As for Cavanagh, whether he was playing good-natured Ed or the record executive on Love Monkey, he's always had a certain cadance to his speech, and he's given an affable, charming, somewhat off-kilter spin to almost every character he's ever played.

We know McCormack and Cavanagh. We know these characters. Meh.

And then you have the show itself, which flips tones wildly between the first and second episodes. The first episode jumps into this frenzied world with a sometimes dramatic vengeance. The second is a comedy of errors to the point of slapstick. During a recent set visit, the stars and producers held out little hope that this flap-jack approach would settle down any time soon.

"I think we have the ability to go either way in any given week," says producer/creator Hunt Baldwin, a former ad guy himself. "I think part of what's going to make this show fun is that you're going to always be a little bit off balance in terms of deciding whether it's going somewhere comedic or serious. Just so you know, there are some episodes that I think are going to veer more toward the pilot and some that are going to veer more toward the second episode you saw."

That's not quite the same course charted by veteran show producer Greer Shephard, who said that she sees the show as a comedy first.

"We learned early on that we need to structure the show as a comedy more than a drama," Shephard says at the same set visit.

Awkward.

No matter which direction producers take, the one unique character in the bunch is Monica Potter's Sarah Krajicek-Hunter, the newly divorced, career-driven professional who is the Mary Richards for a new generation. It's a gem of a role, and Potter attacks it with all her considerable comedic skill.

The well-worn buddy premise has been played out, but Sarah's a character we haven't seen much in the past. She's a woman who has been consumed by her career to the point that she's oblivious to the fact that while she's admired for her talent, she's uniformly hated by her coworkers.

Lured by the promise of a corner office with a window and more upward mobility, Sarah arrives at her new firm ready to rock, and discovers that she's been shoved into a corner with a couple of bottom rung co-workers. No one puts Sarah in a corner. She comes out fighting to take her proper place in the office pecking order.

Shephard says we can look forward to more Sarah screen time in the future.

"In the pilot, you try not to do too much and we focus the story on the Mason-Conner relationship, but when we were developing the series, it was always seen as a trinity, with Mason, Conner and Sarah," Shephard says. "There will always be a Mason-Conner relationship storyline, then we sort of rotate."

Our preference is to rotate this world so that Sarah's front and center.