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Sunday, May 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Trust Me’ debuts tonight on TNT

Eric McCormack, left, and Thomas Cavanagh arrive at the 35th annual People’s Choice Awards on  Jan. 7 in Los Angeles. The pair star in TNT’s “Trust Me.” (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Eric McCormack, left, and Thomas Cavanagh arrive at the 35th annual People’s Choice Awards on Jan. 7 in Los Angeles. The pair star in TNT’s “Trust Me.” (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
By Neal Justin Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

TNT’s gallery of characters – hard-nosed detectives, burdened lawyers, daredevil con artists – suffers the kind of ordeals that made Oedipus Rex poke his eyes out.

Pure torture for them, high entertainment for us.

The network’s newest members, Mason and Conner of “Trust Me” – premiering tonight at 10 (cable channel 54 in Spokane, 31 in Coeur d’Alene) – face nothing close to a Greek tragedy.

As advertising executives in a modern-day Chicago firm, their most daunting challenges are impending deadlines and a strained friendship.

Their response: Talk, talk and more talk.

TV’s other series about the advertising world, AMC’s “Mad Men,” also leans heavily on conversation, but that Emmy-winning series is buoyed by sexual intrigue, secret identities and a colorful backdrop of the turbulent ’60s.

“Trust Me” relies almost solely on fast-paced, witty chit-chat – and that’s just fine with lead actors Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh.

“My fear of doing another television series was having to do a one-hour crime show,” says McCormack, who won an Emmy for the title role in “Will & Grace.”

He plays Mason, a cautious art director who gets thrust into the role of supervising his best buddy, Conner, a loosey-goosey writer.

“In those crime series, the conversation is gone and it doesn’t really involve character development,” McCormack says.

“I need the dialogue. That’s what drew me to this. I don’t want to wait all day for an explosion.”

Cavanagh, best known for his role as the lovesick lead in the NBC dramedy “Ed,” shares his co-star’s affection for meaty dialogue and on-screen chemistry.

Both know the series will live or die by the audience’s reaction to two alpha males bickering about everything from cell-phone slogans to work responsibility.

“It’s impossible to define what’s needed, but there’s got to be something special in the air,” says Cavanagh. “It’s something you don’t have to work to create. It’s just there, in an instant.”

McCormack knows the value of that on-screen magic. He auditioned with 20 actresses for “Will & Grace” before being paired with Debra Messing, a combination that led to a highly successful eight-year run.

He and Cavanagh knew each other only in passing – from NBC parties and the fact they both hail from Canada – but they had a gut instinct that they would work well together.

“I’m pretty guarded about my approach to acting, but I will say that both of us learn our lines fast and like to rehearse,” Cavanagh says. “If you’re well prepared, it’s a lot easier to go off-script and improvise.”

The series is not simply a two-handed affair. Veteran actor Griffin Dunne pops up on occasion to fill the obligatory role of the distant, somewhat dim boss. And as an offbeat ad writer, Monica Potter delivers a career-changing performance that’s reminiscent of the early, glorious days of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

But in the end, the show will sink or swim on McCormack and Cavanagh’s synchronicity.

“The characters have to riff off each other to succeed,” says McCormack. “If they don’t, they’re dead in the water.”

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