Monday, September 26, 2011

Pilot Season: Whitney (Points for Realism, Points Off for Boring Me)

Continuing in my series of writing about television pilots after they’ve aired but in no particular order or reasonable pattern, here’s the next one!

WHITNEY (NBC Thursdays 9:30 EST)

is NBC’s new multi-cam sitcom from standup comedian Whitney Cummings*, and as you can tell from the super creative title, it’s about her.  More exactly, it’s about her standup, told through skits.  I have watched her standup, being the proud owner of a Netflix account and too much free time, and I can tell you that almost every joke in the show is directly ripped from that standup routine.  But I get ahead of myself.

In the pilot, Whitney and her boyfriend of five years (whose name I have already forgotten—Tim? Dan? something generic) go to a wedding for some friends.  Whitney is funny, but altogether awful to nearly everyone there.  We learn that this is because she hates weddings, and not because she is a sociopath just released from solitary confinement, which seems the more likely answer.  Back at home, Whitney and TimDanPerson talk about how they probably don’t have enough sex anymore, even though their five-year anniversary is coming up.**  She decides they have to have more sex, and calls on her two best friends, Married and Divorced, for help.

That looks medically sound.
They come up with the brilliant idea of role-play.  And then is the fabulous scene where they do the roleplay.  It’s pretty funny, actually, as Whitney plays a naughty nurse, and SteveDaveWhoever is forced to fill in forms and get his insurance card.  But given that nearly every part of the scene has already been in a promo for the show, it’s wasn’t hilarious.  Anyway, BobbyJoeFace falls over and gets a concussion in the excitement and has to go to the hospital.  While there, Whitney discovers that because she’s not his wife, she can’t go in to see him, and this bothers her.  When she gets in, she proposes.  He says no, because she’s just scared, and he’ll wait for her to be ready for marriage.  And then it ends with them fooling around in the hospital bed and him getting another concussion.

As far as the plot and format go, Whitney is the standard of multi-cam sitcoms.  It’s back to classics format, simple plot about relationships and gender dynamics, and really obvious laugh track are all the hallmarks of a mid-90s sitcom.  Blah blah blah hand me a cosmo blah.

What I liked about this show, in difference from most of the others I’ve seen recently is the characters (of course).  Whitney might be loud, obnoxious, and slightly sociopathic, but she’s interesting.  I get her.  I’ve been her.  And I didn’t like her even when I was her, but she makes sense to me in a way that’s visceral and real.  That is very appealing. 

Sure, her boyfriend is bland and clearly just the straightman and I can’t even remember his name, but their relationship does seem to work.  And more important, he has a fantastic view on it.  Too often I see couples getting married because it seems like time to get married.  They’ve been together for a while, and it’s too much work not to.  At least this show is taking the stance that, no, you should really want to get married if you’re going to get married.  It needs to mean something.  If it doesn’t then it won’t stick.

While I find her decision to dress up in a slutty nurse outfit a little too “quirky” and “charming”, I think that the character of Whitney is interesting.  She is a woman who owns her agency in all aspects of her life.  She has a real partnership with her boyfriend, in all aspects of their relationship.  She can be loud, but she cares.  For once, at least it’s the woman screwing it up so that the understanding man can pick up the pieces.  It's a new dynamic (to television) and I approve.  Whatever the reason, these two work, and I like them.

So, no, the show isn’t spectacular, or original, or very new.  It’s funny, but in a light, easy way that won’t mess up your hair, and I don’t feel a need to tune in every week.  But if I happen to catch it when it’s on, I won’t mind.  And I’m happy that it’s on at all, because there should be more Whitneys on television.  Messy, realistic women, who are owning their own lives, even when they make bad choices.

If only it were a little funnier.

Ahh, dysfunction.

*Who also created and executive-produced 2 Broke Girls, which we will get to later.

**Or because of it, am I right ladies?! (This is what Whitney’s actual standup sounds like.  I propose a ban on all comics who use that phrase, “Am I right ladies”.  It’s one step above laughing at your own joke when sober.)


  1. yes! After seeing her stand up (which I loved) and the commercials for this, everything felt so contrived and I can't think of one funny moment that didn't originate in the routine, where is the rest of the sea song going to cone from?... Because of that I'm going to give it another chance to see if she can take it somewhere new and refreshing... TimDanPerson is a good name for him actually:)

  2. Haha I meant "script" not sea song and come not cone! I hate the iPad

  3. Going to be honest, those are the best typos I've ever seen, and I may steal them. :)

    As for the direction of the rest of the season, I think there's room for some funny episodes, if she takes the material from her standup and develops it into actual stories, instead of just telling some jokes in the course of the plot. Or we could let TimDanPerson do some of the talking, but that would be blasphemy.