Unless you're devoid of ethics and have only money on your mind, you're not going to feel much empathy for sports agent Arliss Michaels. And you're not going to like him much either. But that doesn't mean he won't make you laugh.
The yuks come courtesy of the sharp, satirical writing of Robert Wuhl (left), who also produces Arli$$ and plays the title role. Wuhl, who starred as journalist Al Stump in the film Cobb and played a hilarious blabbermouth coach in Bull Durham, takes aim at the morally challenged world of sports agentry and usually hits the mark.
"My job is to make [athletes'] dreams come true," Michaels says. He does that in cutthroat negotiations, like those with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that unfolded in the series' debut as the pair sat at a breakfast table spooning up puffed rice. A session with another owner, which appears in the second show, ends when Michaels's client (a pitcher demanding $2 million a year after a one-win season) emits an impossibly powerful stream of urine across the owner's desk.
Not all the humor is that puerile, though neither is it exactly highbrow. There's verbal play (one of Michaels's clients, a gay skater planning to marry a man who plays Prince Charming in an ice show, says, "I've been looking all my life for Prince Charming") and slapstick (Michaels gets berated by the handbag-brandishing mom of his high-school-to-NBA client). The point of the show is satire, and it's strengthened by appearances of many celebrities, starting with the opening montage in which Michaels chats with Bill Parcells, banters with Magic Johnson and tees off with Arnold Palmer. Michaels is also shown at a banquet receiving a good citizen award while keeping tabs on a football game on which he has bet $500,000. Another time you hear him think, "God, I love what I do" right after securing a $30 million guaranteed contract for an NBA rookie who faints from a heart condition before playing a game.
No, Michaels is not anybody's favorite guy. But for a half hour each week, the s.o.b. gives you your money's worth.