Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Pilot #7: Whitney



FALL PILOT #7: Whitney
NETWORK: NBC

SUPPOSED SELLING POINT: Another lady comedian on NBC
POSSIBLE SELLING POINT FOR ME:  ...?

Isn't Whitney Cummings supposed to be edgy or something?  I mean, I thought that was the word on the street. If her new self-titled sitcom is any indication, however, she was edgy in maybe...1996? 1997?  Remember Ally McBeal's dancing baby biological clock?  The cloud pajamas?  The early days of cosmopolitans and Manolo Blahniks?  That's when Whitney would have been an edgy network sitcom: in the hey day of Bridget Jones singletons shouting loud, proud, and occasionally mussed up.  Nothing against those ladies, but our new female comedy leads are dimensional beyond quirks, uncertainty, and frank sex talk. Whitney feels like a step back in time to a cheap, tacky land of forced jokes, shoddy reaction shots, and brightly colored 'sitcom' clothes (you know, the sort that the characters might never wear in real life).  It's the right idea, NBC.  Putting female comedians in leading roles works out well for you and everyone else.  It's just, in execution, this one feels slapped together and stilted; cheesy, passively feminist tripe chock full of characters who could easily be exchanged with those on the now 100% more self-aware Cougar Town.  

Amazingly, after enduring the first six fairly painful minutes of Whitney, I would have preferred to watch Cougar Town.  You know the difference?  Whitney's got a goddamn "live audience" laugh-track.  In a scripted comedy, nothing could be more distracting.  On Whitney?  That "live studio audience" sounds like a live audience of people operating laugh-track machines.  It's grating, particularly when the laughter triggers at a moment where NOTHING IS FUNNY.  I shut it off.  I shut it off after six minutes, threw in the towel and figured it wasn't worth it.

"Oh, that Whitney, she so crazy, she's eating those wedding cupcakes before they "cut" the wedding cake."

"Oh, that Whitney, she wore a yellow dress to the wedding instead of a white one to try not to upstage the bride, but the bride wore yellow too.  She so crazy."

"Oh, that Whitney, she's so wild and crazy that we need a random wedding guest to tell her boyfriend that she's so wild and crazy so that we understand she so wild and crazy."  

Twelve hours later, I decided to suck it up and finish the remaining 15 minutes.  Whatever.  Hulu in the morning as I ate my breakfast.  My reward?  Watching Whitney Cummings fret about the lack of routine sex in her long-term committed relationship (because we haven't seen that before), watching her put on a slutty nurse's outfit and managing to get her boyfriend checked into the real hospital, and watching her best friend walk into the apartment and start drinking.   Ah yes, I see how deeply neurotic we are...

Character aside, the primary problem facing Whitney is that it's simply rather unfunny.  There's a sense that everyone in the cast is trying too hard, that they're aware they don't have an original concept or a real direction to take the show in.  Whitney may be playing a fictional version of herself, but she doesn't seem to know who that person is.  She and her faux-boyfriend Alex (Chris D'Elia) alternate between kooky kooks and total apathy.  Both, it turns out, aren't particularly interesting...

SECOND EPISODE?:  Um, I'd really prefer not to...
WILL IT MAKE IT TO A SECOND SEASON?: Based on the first one?  I hope not...

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