Blunt Talk, Patrick Stewart’s new Starz comedy, starts off with a stumble in its season premiere (August 22, 9 p.m. ET). Crude humor and simple plotting combine to create a show that believes it is edgier than it actually is. But even in a deeply uneven vehicle, the right star can still shine. Though Blunt Talk suffers from executive producer Seth MacFarlane at his most crass and creator/writer Jonathan Ames at his most ponderous, Stewart is, as always, magnetic. We’ll give the subpar Blunt Talk a little bit more rope to hang itself with because of the man at the center of the proceeding.
As you gear up to watch Blunt Talk, let’s talk about all the things that make Sir P.Stew great. Here are 10 reasons everything is better with Patrick Stewart.
He oozes class.
The first scene of the Blunt Talk premiere features Stewart waxing historical with his favorite bartender. While many older men sitting alone sipping whiskey would come across as somewhere on a continuum between pathetic and degenerate, P.Stew brings an aura of dignity to even the least dignified moments. The way he holds a tumbler of whiskey is enough to make you understand how the brown stuff became a symbol of classy masculinity. If anyone can make drinking alone look good, it’s him.
He always knows what he’s talking about.
Early on in the Blunt Talk pilot, Stewart gives his bartender a lesson on the House of Windsor’s twentieth century history. As he rolls through historical chestnuts like, “One time in New York, Jimmy was shaving the sex organs of a soldier and by mistake he lopped off his balls,” you get the sense that the man has done his research. Whether Stewart comes by his aura of authority through actual research or carefully practiced patterns of speech, we’ll never know, but one thing is for sure: When P.Stew says something, you believe it.
When in doubt, he can add a Shakespearean monologue.
One nice thing about having Patrick Stewart in your show is that when you need to make a scene pop, you can just drop in a piece of the Bard, and the rest takes care of itself. When Stewart’s character Walter Blunt is arrested for soliciting a prostitute and drunk driving (as one does), he launches into a Hamlet soliloquy on top of his very expensive Jaguar (as one does). What could have been a hacky Hugh Grant reference turned into decent dramatic moment thanks to Stewart’s unique relationship with old Billy Shakes.
He knows how to handle a butler.
Jonathan Ames, Seth McFarlane, and company have made their fair share of missteps early on in the process of Blunt Talk. But one smart choice they made was to give Patrick Stewart a butler, played by Adrian Scarborough. The comic butler is a deep-seated tradition in English arts and literature that includes P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves, Oscar Wilde’s plays, and any number of things you were forced to read in college. Experienced British stage actors know how to milk these characters for every ounce of comedy. Predictably, the scenes between Blunt and his “man” Henry are some of the best in Blunt Talk so far.
He can manage terrible dialogue.
Dialogue is definitely a weakness of Blunt Talk. The script relies on a load of brashness without a lot of craft. Luckily, Stewart knows how to make awful dialogue hit as hard as it possibly can. As a classically trained actor, P.Stew is a master of rhythm. He can deploy creative punctuation and emphasis across even the worst lines, and sometimes manage to wring laughs out where we thought they wouldn’t exist. If you’re going to put lipstick on a pig, you should find someone who can choose the right shade.
The man can move.
Along his journey from Shakespeare to Starfleet to the Internet’s favorite octogenarian meme, Stewart has picked up some dance moves. The man comes from an old school of acting where men were expected to dance, and in Blunt Talk, he shows off his moves. Though he doesn’t quite pull off Magic Mike moves, he’s still got a few shuffle steps up his sleeve.
He’s up for whatever you throw at him.
Not every revered actor would be up for putting himself in compromising positions. The British acting tradition is a bit less ego driven than what we have in the States, and as a result, actors from across the pond tend to take more risks. If you turn on the BBC, you’ll find leads from your favorite shows picking up bit parts on other series. The reparatory tradition of the British stage has bled onto the screen, and created a breed of actor hungry for risk.
He elevates the actors around him.
The weaknesses of Blunt Talk are most evident in the few minutes when P.Stew isn’t onscreen. The precision of his emotions, running the gamut from rakish snark to impotent rage, helps the other actors make sense of weak dialogue and a fractured story. Even when the script doesn’t make sense, Walter Blunt does. Perhaps the greatest testament to his skills is what happens when he isn’t in the scene. Without Stewart’s magnetic presence, scenes quickly fall apart.
He can bring the fire.
Stewart clearly treasures the moments when he’s allowed to rage blindly against…whatever it is that Walter Blunt is raging against. In the second episode, when the hurricane he’s covering gets downgraded to non-newsworthy status, Blunt, decked out in his finest yellow raincoat, goes off. Stewart delivers a monologue in grand style, full of bluster and bravado. If you weren’t listening to the words, you’d think it was something out of King Lear. Though when he launches into these long speeches, you feel like he’s imagining himself working with better material, it still a pleasure to watch him bring the flame emojis.
He carries the weight of his experiences to the screen.
It isn’t just his Shakespeare that you can see peeking through as Stewart stalks the screen. Just as with other seasoned actors like Ian McKellen and Michael Caine, you can often see P.Stew’s past roles in his current work. Even in playing a man as hopelessly impotent at Walter Blunt, you see the bearing of the man who once commanded Star Fleet. In his attempts at reckoning with his fading mortality, you remember his work in roles like Captain Ahab. With almost 150 film and TV credits and innumerable stage roles under his belt, when you watch an actor like Stewart, you can almost see him scrolling through his own resume, allowing the tools he’s gathered over the decades to inform his work.