The problems of a rakishly handsome, always-on-the-go bad boy who sees 40 on the horizon but just can’t settle down with one woman may elicit sympathy from a very small demographic. (Possibly one that includes only George Clooney.) And the problems facing a high-strung urban celebrity publicist probably appeal to an equally tiny subset. (Possibly only George Clooney’s publicist.) So it’s hard to determine the audience for Jake in Progress, unless it’s a demographic of John Stamos fans who will follow him anywhere, even to an underdeveloped sitcom in which Stamos’Jake alternates snappy talk while he strides along Manhattan’s fast track with sappy talk while he apologizes to an ever-regenerating supply of irked women.
I wanted to like Jake, if only because, as a single-camera, laugh-track-free comedy, it lacks the creepy yellow-orange glow that makes every ABC sitcom look as if it’s shot in an egg incubator. And I wanted to like Jake because Stamos, whether playing Full House or full louse, is an affable and durable presence; a few years from now he’ll probably be raising four orphans with his sister Marisa Tomei on the new Fox hit Six-Pack! Stamos is most appealing playing against his handsome-smoothie qualities, and here, he’s best when he’s slightly unsettled. The first few episodes give him a funny subplot in which he represents a barely closeted athlete. ”You were making out with the bartender?” Stamos asks with a sigh as he drags his client out of a strip joint. ” No, he was making out with me” is the injured reply. (We’ll see if that joke survives the show’s inappropriate 8 p.m. time slot.)
Network restrictions prevent Jake in Progress from being either the Entourage-like take on showbiz or the male Sex and the City that it wants to be. That leaves too much time for his standard sitcom crew: Best Buddy (Felicity‘s Ian Gomez) and Irritating Guy (Cellular‘s Rick Hoffman, an actor best taken in humming-bird’s-eyelash-size doses). The show desperately needs a female character who doesn’t find Jake dazzling; his tart boss, a forty-something single woman pregnant by a sperm donor (the always excellent Wendie Malick), could be that adversary if the scripts didn’t force her to be so benignly amused by the little scamp. But is it really charming when a guy says, ”Whenever I get close to someone, I freak out and then I convince myself that there’s someone better out there for me”? The woman he’s whining to smartly remarks: ”I appreciate your honesty…but I don’t think so.” I’m with her.