TV Review'Whitney,' the laughs are with the starNBC sitcom works when Whitney Cummings is cracking the jokes
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine
What are the odds that two new network sitcoms would both feature jokes about lonely single women who own a talking bird so that someone will tell them they are attractive?
Pretty good, actually. Anyone who covers TV could tell you that almost every fall, two or more comedy pilots feature virtually the same joke. It's probably not a question of plagiarism. The pressure on the shows' creators to follow trends and imitate successes creates a similarity in subject matter and tone that leads to a similarity in writing.NBC's new comedy Whitney,
which has a punch line about a lonely divorced woman with seven parrots that say she looks pretty, premieres Thursday at 9:30 p.m.
, just eight days after NBC's Free Agents, in which someone says that her widowed grandmother bought a mynah bird for that purpose.
Although the eponymous star of Whitney, the standup comedian Whitney Cummings, is a talented and quirky performer, there's about a mynah's worth of difference between most of the jokes on Whitney and those on the usual singles-in-the-city comedy. The premiere episode builds up some energy when the focus is squarely on Cummings, but too much of the time is filled with young people sitting around swapping zingers about romance and sex, a tired formula that is probably impossible to freshen.
The series is about a happily unmarried couple who have sitcom jobs in other words, ones that allow them to hang with their friends at any given moment of the day or night. Whitney, a photographer, is living with her boyfriend of three years, Alex (Chris D'Elia), who, according to one of the many lines of expository dialogue in the premiere, sold a big Internet company.
The episode opens with Whitney and Alex jostling in front of a sink while getting ready to go to a wedding. In what may be a TV first, we see her shaving her upper lip.
The wedding makes them question their own relationship status. Alex is ready to get married, but Whitney says to him, Half of all marriages end. If half of all planes crashed, would you continue to fly?
Like many of the lines on the show, that joke feels as if it were cut and pasted from one of Cummings' standup routines. Similarly, when Alex tells her she can't wear white to the wedding, Whitney responds, Does the bride think the groom's going to get confused and marry me by accident?
Granted, most sitcoms have improbably witty characters. But the ones on Whitney are also rather blatantly designed to present various perspectives on relationships.
Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn) is a cynical divorcee. Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) is a romantic who's all lovey-dovey with her boyfriend, Neal (Maulik Pancholy). And Mark (Dan O'Brien) is a single guy who tries to play the field.
At the wedding, they all joke in character. Mark, who's a police officer, checks out the female guests and says things like Someone's going on a ride-along tonight and Someone's getting a cavity search.
After Lily returns to the table saying that she had to fight off another girl to catch the bouquet, she shouts across the room, Enjoy another year of eHarmony, beeyotch!
The episode builds energy when Whitney tries to heat up her sex life with Alex by dressing in a naughty-nurse costume. Seemingly missing the point, she makes him produce his insurance card and then tells him to fill out some forms.
Whit, do I really need my employer's address? he asks.
It helps that Cummings is one of those rare funny people who can wear a sexy outfit without having their physique be part of the joke.
The scene takes a few clever turns before the plotline resolves itself conventionally. Rather implausibly, Whitney's mother shows up, but the good news is that she's played by Jane Kaczmarek, of Malcolm in the Middle.
Few sitcoms that star a standup comic have been edgier and funnier than the comic's own material, Seinfeld being one exception. Whitney has moments that suggest it will capture and capitalize on its star's uniqueness, but just as many moments that suggest it's going to settle into the relationship-comedy template. That's a joke that recurs more than several times each fall.http://www.medialifemagazine.com/art...h-the-star.asp