DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

GARY EDGERTON

ROGER CATLIN

KIM AKASS

GERALD JORDAN

MONIQUE NAZARETH

TOM BRINKMOELLER

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
'Whitney' Gets Off to a Smart 'n' Snappy Start
September 22, 2011  | By Ed Bark
 
whitney-nbc-thursday-night.jpg

NBC has branded Whitney Cummings this fall's "It" girl. This doesn't necessarily mean she's the best thing about the new sitcom Whitney (Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET), although she's still quite a bit better than good.

The revelation here is Chris D'Elia, who plays Whitney's live-in boyfriend, Alex. He's the low-key, but quick-with-a-quip anchor of a series in which the title character and her two likewise high-strung girlfriends are far less likely to tone it down.

D'Elia, who like Cummings comes from the standup comedy world, is a solid delivery man when it comes to making the most of his somewhat secondary role. At a wedding reception, for instance, Whitney is caught in the act of prematurely glomming onto the cupcakes after earlier being talked out of wearing white. (She then wears yellow. Which happens to be the bride's chosen color.)

"Wow, you're on fire tonight," D'Elia's Alex notes. "What are you closing with -- blackface?"

whitney-cummings-chris-delia-nbc.jpg

The two of them have been together for three years, with no inclination to become Mr. and Mrs. Her parents have both been divorced three times, so it's Whitney's opinion that "getting married is so dumb." Alex is more than OK with that, although their lax sex life could use a little boost. Or at least Whitney feels that way, prompting her to wear a naughty nurse's outfit to surprise Alex when he returns home. First, though, he'll have to fill out the patient forms. It's a funny bit, and you're probably assuming it doesn't end well.

It doesn't.

Cummings, whose career began catching fire on the E! network's Chelsea Lately, is very busy this fall. She's also the co-creator and executive producer of CBS' 2 Broke Girls, which rocked the ratings with a Monday premiere that capitalized on the coattails of the preceding debut of Ashton Kutcher as Charlie Sheen's replacement on Two and a Half Men.

Whitney, the only NBC comedy with a studio audience and attendant crowd laughs, is slotted after The Office on Thursday nights. So it's also following a show in transition, with James Spader stepping in to fill the void left by Steve Carell.

whitney-wedding-nbc-2011.jpg

Cummings has nowhere near the acting experience of any of the aforementioned stars. But she acquits herself well in the Whitney opener, with D'Elia landing some welcome softer punchlines. How nice it is to have a guy who's neither a shouter nor a whiner.

Sitcoms also can rise and fall on the strength of their supporting players. Whitney's so far/so good gal pals include a sardonic divorcee named Roxie (Rhea Seehorn, in photo above) and the much sunnier Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones), who's proud of her frequent sex with boyfriend Neal (Maulik Pancholy). A rather tiresome would-be playuh named Mark (Dan O'Brien, in photo above) rounds out the ensemble. He's also a cop.

The premiere episode for the most part is snappily written and bracingly vibrant. And D'Elia can be relied on to take it down a notch when needed. It all makes for a promising start on a network whose best comedies invariably wind up on Thursday nights. Whitney is already there, and looks as though it just might belong.

GRADE: B+

Read more by Ed Bark at unclebarky.com


2 Comments

 

Peter said:

Hi. To the extent one can judge a show by its pilot -- and that often is a not a fair basis -- my wife and I found Whitney to be mildly witty. It seems like just another show among many about obnoxious, self-important people, complaining about their unimportant problems and making sex cheap and unattractive.

It is not that sex need to be romantic, but Whitney, like Big Bang Theory and similar outtings, are simply crass.

Is there no class at all in comedy other than Modern Family and Parks and Recreation, both of which can be smarmy and rude, yet endearingly funny?

My perhaps too harsh grade for Whitney is C+.

Comment posted on September 25, 2011 6:53 PM


Zach said:

TV Worth watching is typically a wonderful source for reviews and advice on quality television, however I must strongly and emphatically disagree with the B+ grade assigned to "Whitney".

I watched the pilot of this show, guessing that I was going to not like it, but not wanting to speak ill of it without giving it a fiar chance. I've done this in the past with movies, TV series and music and in some cases I've actually found that my low expectations made the movie enjoyable as I was pleasantly surprised. One such case was the flop "Envy" with Christopher Walken, JAck Balck and Ben Stiller. I expected it to be terrible, and liked it so much that I purchased it on DVD.

This was not the case with "Whitney". I gave it a fair shot, and found it to greatly underperform even what I expected. First, there was almost no tension or conflict to which we could easily relate. Whitney wants to do something special for her anniversary. That's about it. She dresses up in a "sexy" nurse outfit. That's the conflict.

Secondly, the characters were two-dimensional at best. The divorced friend was just an angry and sardonic woman with no depth, their "player" friend was a flat and obnoxious attempt to capture that Barney Stinson charm and it didn't work at all. And the overly loving couple? Just an another annoying two people who I don't want to spend time with.

Whitney herself is positioned to be the person that has to deal with stuff and juggle these other characters- after all, she is presented as the protagonist- but she ends up reading as a person without a strong identity. In one scene she is telling people how to behave, and the next she is eating cupcakes before it is socially acceptable. Is she supposed to be the wise one or the daft one? And every line she has that is supposed to be a "joke" starts with "Okay" and then reads like one of her hacked standup bits, wedged into a situation comedy.

The only thing I found in this episode for which I could feel was her boyfriend. He is just a guy, living his life, and letting Whitney be nuts. Frankly, if you dissected Whitney's persona in the show she would be clinically unstable and probably have multiple personalities, but this guy just keeps on keeping on. He is patient and kind, and loving and tolerant and so many other things. But it feels more like watching a regular guy wander through alice's wonderland just saying "oh sorry... I'm just passing through. Don't mind me... I'm normal."

I will give "Whitney" a D-. I would give it a lower grade, except that I feel bad for Chris D'Ella, and he brings that sliver of watchability to this show. His acting was the only thing that made me even chuckle, and I thank him for saving me an entire 1/2 hour bereft of humor.

D-

Comment posted on September 30, 2011 3:58 PM
 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
TQTLI
Type in the verification word shown on the image.