Can Matthew Perry's Mr. Sunshine Fill the Cougar Town Void?

Let me start by saying that Mr. Sunshine is not Cougar Town. But Cougar Town wasn’t really Cougar Town when it started, either — at least it wasn’t the show we know and love today.

So what exactly does this mean for the new ABC sitcom, which is replacing our beloved Cul-de-sac Crew for the next 10-1/2 weeks? Is Mr. Sunshine worth watching while Cougar Town is away?

In a word: Yes. In a few more words: You won’t instantly fall head-over-heels in love with Mr. Sunshine (á la Modern Family), but ABC’s newest Wednesday night offering is a slow-burn comedy and definitely worth checking out — especially if you’re a Matthew Perry fan.

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Perry (who produces and co-wrote the Sunshine pilot) stars as Ben, a loveless, self-absorbed, middle-aged man who runs the Sunshine Center, a San Diego sports arena-like venue, and suddenly realizes he wants more out of life when his friend-with-benefits and coworker, Alice (Better Off Ted‘s Andrea Anders), breaks things off.

The Friends alum is also joined by Allison Janney (The West Wing), his part pill-popper/part racist/part voice of wisdom boss, Crystal, as well as Perry’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip costar James Lesure, as the perpetually happy coworker Alonzo. Fellow Studio 60er Nate Torrence plays Crystal’s doofy son Roman, while Lost‘s Jorge Garcia stops by for two episodes as the center’s maintenance man, “Bob-Bobert-Something-or-Other.”

So, why watch? Perry is appealing. Leaving Chandler Bing behind — while still utilizing a majority of his facial expressions and quirks — Perry shines as the jaded boss with a growing heart of gold, proving he’s still got the comedy chops of that little known NBC show he used to frequent. Add to the mix Janney and you’ve got a funny new series that deserves a little time to work out all its kinks. You know, the same courtesy you gave Cougar Town — and look how that turned out?

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Will we all miss Jules and Co. for the next two-and-a-half months? Absolutely. But is Mr. Sunshine worth checking out in the interim? You bet.

And if you’re still not convinced, there’s this: Do it for Monica and Chandler. Oh yeah, I went there.

Mr. Sunshine premieres Wednesday at 9:30/8:30c on ABC following an all-new Modern Family.