Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review - Partners

The CBS Premiere Party at the Paley Center for Media featured a screening of this new sitcom followed by a panel with the cast and creators, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the same team behind Will & Grace.

W&G was loosely inspired by an event in Kohan and Mutchnick's life and led to eight nearly-always hysterical seasons (show featured a terrific cast including Eric McCormack as Will, Debra Messing as Grace and the magical comic duo of Jack, played by Sean Hayes, and Karen, played by Megan Mullally).  Trying for years to put more of their real-life, decades-long friendship on screen, Kohan and Mutchnick finally have in Partners.

If only it was as funny as W&G.  It's not, at least the pilot isn't.
The creators said in the panel that they are not trying to make any political statements with their show - which follows the relationship between straight man Joe (David Krumholtz, Numbers) and gay man Louis (Michael Urie, Ugly Betty) and their respective mates Ali (Sophia Bush, One True Hill) and Wyatt (Brandon Routh, Chuck) - like, say, The New Normal may be doing.  "We just want to entertain as many as we can;  no teaching, just hopefully making people laugh," said Mutchnick.

I didn't laugh.  I barely chuckled.  And being that W&G was a show I consistently laughed at, that's a shame.

So what's the problem?  I think maybe, at least in the pilot, they're trying way too hard.  I swear, when the characters were talking and came to the joke - which they seemed to do with almost every line - the actors actually paused and gave a "look" ... you know, like "insert laugh here" or the way Ricky blatantly reacted to Lucy in I Love Lucy.  It worked then.  Now, it's just obvious and a little sad. 

There's a supporting character, Joe and Louis's assistant in their architecture firm (didn't catch her name), that portrays the worst of the Latino stereotype with the super-heavy accent and, I kid you not, she actually used the line "I will cut you" when putting the guys in their place.  Later there was an actual boob-smoosh - no doubt an homage to Jack and Karen.  Doesn't replicate here at all.

Then there's Ali, Joe's girlfriend, who's beautiful, successful and clearly wrestling with the fact that she has to share Joe with Louis (with whom she reluctantly does yoga). Nothing new there ... I mean all of Will and Grace's love interests had to deal with the same issue, but with them it was funny, it worked.  Here - and to be fair I've only seen the one episode - not so much.

And we have Routh's Wyatt, who is Louis' boyfriend.  He's a male nurse, a profession Wyatt's proud of but Louis has a problem with - it's embarrassing to him.  So we'll get jokes about that but not enough to sustain the funny.  I appreciate Routh wanting to do comedy.  He said at the panel that that's what he loved about playing Clark Kent in Superman Returns.  Can he pull it off?  Only time will tell ... hard to say from the pilot since he didn't have that much to do.
The end of the episode had the quartet sitting together with Ali stating what is clearly the heart of the show:  there are four people at the table but three couples.  The series will undoubted play off this premise and explore those relationships, the subsequent conflicts, etc. The creators said they will incorporate things that happened in their own friendship, so that could be interesting. Maybe it was just a weak pilot and the show will get better.  But other ensemble sitcoms have been hysterical right from the start, including other CBS fare How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls.

And of course, Will & Grace.  See where I'm going with this?  If you want a funnier show with this relationship premise and a quartet of comical characters, go with that one.

Partners premieres Monday, Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.

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