Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pilot Review: Whitney

Whitney (Thursdays at 9:30 on NBC)

I will say this for Whitney: it's not nearly as bad as the commercials and previews make it look.

There's basically no story here; it's just Whitney Cummings's stab at a relationship comedy in which her character, also named Whitney Cummings, tries to keep her love life alive with long-term boyfriend Alex (Chris D'Elia) while perpetually avoiding the subject of marriage.

Cummings created, wrote, produced and stars in this series, one of two she has on air this year (the other being 2 Broke Girls on CBS, which she only created and is producing). Her presence on screen is unfortunate; her writing is often very funny ("Honey, do you have those Pepto things? It's just that.. the scallops are starting to get chatty."), but her performance is broad and unfunny. She has that annoying approach to laugh lines that lets you know the joke is coming, making it all the more difficult for you to laugh. Speaking of laughs, the laugh-track is the most shrill and obnoxious I've ever heard on a series. They don't normally bother me whatsoever, but this one is just too much.

Aside from Cummings, Chris D'Elia is a fine leading man. His character and his situation with Whitney aren't exactly fresh (We need to have more sex! We're too comfortable with each other! I have mommy issues! I'm scared of marriage!), but he does what he can to get laughs out of some stale jokes. The best characters in the pilot are Whitney's friends Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn), a bitter early-30s divorcee; Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones), an over-the-top food blogger in a new relationship; and Mark (Dan O'Brien), an eternal bachelor. They are given the best jokes of the episode, suggesting that Cummings just doesn't know how to write for herself, or that she doesn't know how to play her own jokes. There's also a great cameo by Loni Love as a sassy nurse toward the episode's end.

I don't want to make it seem like there's nothing to like about Whitney, because there is. I think it has already gotten a bad rap because the previews can only show the least-funny moments; the truly laugh-out-loud jokes (of which there were more in this one episode than any other sitcom I've reviewed this year) are too dirty or risque for the G-rated commercials. Whitney is likely to become something of a tamer Sex and the City but with a bit more of a cruel bite to it. If that's your thing, then it's definitely worth the view. It's a great time waster and will likely be fun to watch whenever I happen to catch it, but I won't be going out of my way to watch every week.

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