In television, there is a sub-genre so overdone, so endlessly imitated, that every new entry feels burnt to a crisp on arrival: the show about a powerful man behaving very badly. Usually it requires a famous lead and a splashy setting; Starz’s new half-hour comedy Blunt Talk (debuting Saturday at 9 p.m.) has both, starring Patrick Stewart as the cable news host Walter Blunt, a man in the midst of a severe, and very public decline. Blunt Talk opens with Walter drinking and driving, nibbling on marijuana edibles, and picking up a prostitute, before scuffling with the cops who try to arrest him for solicitation. The implication seems to be that such wantonly outrageous acts make the show worth watching all by themselves, but from the beginning Stewart manfully struggles to make the show even marginally engaging.
Without a doubt, Stewart is certainly the biggest card Blunt Talk has to play. In his long career, he’s rarely ventured into comedy, but his voice work on the Seth MacFarlane comedy American Dad piqued his interest, and Blunt Talk is produced by MacFarlane. Throughout, the show is clearly delighted with itself for getting Stewart to behave so badly—he asks to nuzzle a woman’s breasts, cheerfully ingests any drug handed to him, and out of nowhere recites Shakespearean monologues, in case the audience forgot which actor it was dealing with. It’s quite a fun performance in spite of the very thin show around it, but having Stewart play such a cartoon does not a watchable television show make.