'Mr. Sunshine': Matthew Perry tries to be better

matthew-perry-video-320.jpg Matthew Perry's character in "Mr. Sunshine" is a selfish guy who, at age 40, is finally waking up to the idea that he might want or need other people in his life.

"They say write what you know," the former "Friends" star joked Sunday (Aug. 1) at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.

"Mr. Sunshine" -- which will premiere at midseason on ABC -- stars Perry as Ben Donovan, who manages a sports arena in San Diego and gets a wakeup call from his kinda-sorta girlfriend, Alice ( Andrea Anders, "Better Off Ted"), tells him that "he's very nice, he's fun to be around, but nobody can really take him seriously because he only thinks about himself."

That leads Ben to try to make some changes in his life, and his fumbling attempts to do that -- along with the myriad performers coming in and out of the arena -- are what Perry, who also co-created the show, hopes will create the comedy. "When you take a selfish, narcissistic guy and place him in a world where he has to be [a better person], hopefully that's going to lead to about 9,000 mistakes that are funny that this guy's going to make," he says.

In the two clips below, Perry talks about how involved he was in the genesis of "Mr. Sunshine," from writing parts specifically for co-stars Allison Janney (who plays his boss) and his "Studio 60" co-star Nate Torrence (as Janney's clueless son) to hiring director Thomas Schlamme, another "Studio 60" (and "West Wing") veteran. He also discusses the real-life "turning point" that helped inspire the series.

"I like to say this character is essentially me five years ago," Perry says. "I had a similar conversation in real life as the one that's acted out in the pilot, where someone made me understand that I only really thought about myself, and I'm going to have the same struggles unless I work really hard at changing that. And me working hard at changing that is writing a television show starring me [as a character] who has this problem."

Take a look:





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