'White Famous' recycles Hollywood cliches

Jay Pharoah, Jamie Foxx in 'White Famous'

(CNN)"White Famous" is most notable for its title, which represents the career goal outlined for a rising African-American comedian by his agent. After that, this breezy Showtime comedy basically just feels like the latest variation on "Entourage," with producer Jamie Foxx lending some sizzle by appearing as an "I'm a big star"-crazy version of himself.

Floyd Mooney (Jay Pharoah) is at a crossroads that will determine how and whether his career is going to take off, with the added motivation that he'd like to get back together with the ex-girlfriend (Cleopatra Coleman) with whom he has a son.
Still, he faces a litany of choices that mostly hinge on some variation of selling out, which, in the opening episodes, including an offer to play an old woman, Tyler Perry-style, in a Jamie Foxx movie.
Written by Tom Kapinos ("Californication"), the series possesses the by-now customary jaded view of Hollywood, where everyone's a bit of a jerk. That includes the casual racism -- or just plain insensitivity -- that Floyd encounters in his travels.
    When a white director asks if he's offended him, Floyd reassures the guy that he's just a typical "well-meaning, west-of-the-405 racist," the kind of insider-ish joke that requires a modest understanding of Southern California's freeway system.
    Pharoah, a "Saturday Night Live" alum, is an appealing presence, and the writing is sporadically witty. The show also benefits from featuring actors like Michael Rapaport and Stephen Tobolowsky in recurring roles as some of the loony showbiz power players whose whims Floyd must endure.
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    The problem is that practically all of this -- including Floyd's fast-talking, anything-for-a-buck agent (Utkarsh Ambudkar) -- feels recycled from other sources, perhaps most notably the 1987 movie "Hollywood Shuffle," in which Robert Townsend played a young performer grappling with whether to debase himself in pursuit of steady acting work.
    The project is loosely inspired by Foxx's experiences coming up in the business, and the fact those issues are still relevant this many years later certainly says something. The third episode, moreover, marks a step up from the first two, which could mean the writers are finding their groove.
    Still, one suspects star power had plenty to do with Showtime giving the go-ahead to this once-over-lightly version of making it in Hollywood -- the kind of material that, in comedy terms, feels more like open-mic night than a headliner.
    "White Famous" premieres Oct. 15 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.