Episode Title: "Pilot"
Writer: Whitney Cummings
Director: Andy Ackerman
Whitney is a photographer in a long term relationship with her boyfriend Alex Green (Chris D’Elia). They attend a friend's wedding despite not being a fan of marriage. After causing more then a few scenes, she learns that her friends are having sex more often then her.
Concerned that her relationship is doomed because of this lack of nookie, she attempts to spice up the relationship with some role play (as a nurse) but she only succeeds in sending Alex to the hospital (for real).
There she realizes she wants to spend the rest of her life with him and she considers marriage in a way she never has before. You’ll have to watch for the rest… or you could guess it.
If you don’t know who Whitney Cummings is, then you haven’t been living in a major city. In the last month, I think I’ve seen about 4000 billboards for one of her upcoming projects this week alone. Someone or something has decided that she is going to be Hollywood’s next “it” girl and you better just lie back and take it, because this is happening… Oh yes this is happening. Apparently she’s the next Tina Fay or Kat Dennings. Wait… Kat Dennings is Kat Dennings. Nevermind.
Sadly “Whitney” (her second show debuting this season, the other being “Two Broke Girls”) doesn’t really justify the hype. This bread and butter sitcom is so far from advancing the medium that it's almost a step back. The plots are familiar, the characters are familiar, the jokes are familiar and… you get my point. Of course, this isn’t the first formulaic sitcom ever made, and many of them stayed on the air for much longer then you could have ever guessed (see: "Yes Dear"!). But there is some extra stale X-factor that seems to cut this show off at the knees before it even has a chance.
Honestly, it may just be the laugh track. The semi-trite jokes already have a corn factor that makes this show hard to digest, but the laugh track (and heavily coached studio audience) just make it seem like it doesn’t understand its own accidental 80’s sitcom send-up status. Chris D’Elia seems to be in on the joke and his quiet smirk in every scene seems more about the show itself then his character's own motivations.
D’Elia’s acting leaves a little to be desired, as his hammy responses don’t sit as well with the scenes where Cummings herself seems to be trying to take a serious turn. It's not clear why his relationship with Whitney works, or what he does for a living… or what their dynamic is at all. But it is clear that they are only prevented from killing each other by his ability to grin and shrug off everything anyone says to him. Chris is miscast as the stable part of this relationship and I look forward to his return to roles that cause chaos and not simply dismiss it.
Whitney is actually a pretty good actress, and she plays the role to the hilt. But the character’s hugely manufactured issues (both her parents had 3 divorces each) drag her into the cartoon like jukes and jives that never seem honest or believable to a modern audience. This is a setting and concept problem and not one of writing or acting. Cummings has a future, billboards and all. However, it will be with a show much less produced by the Sitcom-o-Matic and it will be much more innovative. If she really is the next Tina Fay, then we’ll see her prove it on a show that maps new grounds like "30 Rock" (but you know, not exactly like "30 Rock") and not in this reheated and largely neutered sitcom.
The writing itself is actually not bad. The jokes and dialog are well worked if you discount the sitcom stereotypes that deliver them. The exception here is Dan O’Brian as Mark, who is insufferably chauvinistic and a sophomoric character that makes exactly 15 more dumb sex jokes then I was ready to tolerate. I was reminded of the central flaw of "Perfect Couples" here as my reasonable suspension of disbelief as to why his friends' tolerance of his stupidity was gone before the episode hits the half-way point. O’Brian is another actor that’s great in other projects, including a great turn in a “How I Met Your Mother” last season. I don’t know many actors who could handle the dialog he was given here.
There are some gems. A trade of lines between Whitney and Alex might actully be the funniest thing I’ve heard all week:
Whitney: I dont want to end up like my mother, she has seven parrots!
Alex: I thought she had seven therapists.
Whitney: Yeah! She has fourteen things that tell her she’s pretty.
Very funny stuff. Another stand-out is Rhea Seehorn, an actress who breaths life into scenes as Whitney’s more stable if slightly angry-at-life friend. I look forward to seeing more of her, EVEN in this program. If I watch any more episodes, I'll be watching them for her.
So, what’s the final prognosis? "Whitney" is not a good show. It simply doesn’t have anything about it that reaches out and hooks you. Even its good components don’t fit together, and it will leave you hoping to see them expressed in other media. I look forward to these actors going on to long and fruitful careers, but this project will be forgotten and buried before that happens.
CraveOnline Rating: 5 out of 10.