Picks and Pans Review: Love Monkey

updated 01/23/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/23/2006 01:00AM

CBS (Tuesdays, 10 p.m., ET)
BY TOM GLIATTO
COMEDY/DRAMA

Maybe Peter Jackson's King Kong would have shown more box-office muscle with this title. At any rate, Love Monkey, CBS's heavily promoted new hourlong series, comes closest to any recent show in providing the single male primate's answer to Sex and the City. Based on a novel by former People staffer Kyle Smith, it's a more entertaining, more detailed attempt at constructing a Manhattan fantasy than the Potemkin village on How I Met Your Mother. Here we have the city as a playground for thirtysomething men with fun jobs (that they'd just as soon chuck), slim eligible women offering their phone numbers like maidens obliging the gods and a wide range of stomping grounds both uptown and down: bars, basketball courts, apartments. The pilot episode captures the peculiar New York romance of being able to grab a slice of pizza at an all-night place and eating it just out of reach of raindrops. Not that I've ever done that. But isn't it wonderful that I could if I really felt like it?

The chief monkey here is Tom Farrell (Tom Cavanagh), a record-label scout who (unlike Kong) is cursed with an ambivalent heart. Alternately thwarting and torpedoing relationships, he's not an easy character to get in one episode. As played by Cavanagh (Ed), he's not overly cute. There's a strain of George Costanza's prickly self-preservation running through his winnowed leanness—and this is intriguing. Then again, the show doesn't always do him favors trying to make him look cool. Cavanagh can project charm and ambition and frustration. But he does not look like a man born to wear a porkpie hat with any confidence or style. He might as well go out with his head under a taxidermized crow. The show has potential, though. This guy won't be climbing any skyscrapers for love—but how high exactly would he go? How low?

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