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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by Whitney Cummings; directed by Andy Ackerman; TRT: 22:56)
The network's description: "A hilarious look at modern love, "Whitney" is a new multi-camera comedy series about Whitney (Whitney Cummings, "Chelsea Lately") and Alex (Chris D'Elia, "Glory Daze"), a happily unmarried couple. Together for five years, the duo is in no rush to get hitched. However, after attending yet another one of their friends' weddings, Whitney realizes that she and Alex are dangerously close to relationship boredom. Determined not to let that happen, Whitney consults her close circle of opinionated girlfriends -- including Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones, "The Other Guys") and Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn, "The Starter Wife") -- and then snaps into action. A few awkward sexy costumes and one botched seductive evening later, the couple ends up in the emergency room.
Even so, Whitney and Alex realize that while their relationship might not be perfect on paper, they really do love each other -- and that works for them. Also starring are Maulik Pancholy (NBC's "30 Rock") as Lily's perfect boyfriend, and Dan O'Brien ("How I Met Your Mother") as an eternal bachelor. "Whitney" is produced by Universal Media Studios and Scott Stuber Productions. Stuber ("The Break Up"), Quan Phung, Betsy Thomas ("My Boys") and Barry Katz ("Last Comic Standing") are executive producers. Cummings also serves as executive producer/writer. Andy Ackerman ("Seinfeld," "The New Adventures of Old Christine") is an executive producer and directed the pilot."
What did they leave out? Beverly D'Angelo turns up briefly as Whitney's mother, a role which reportedly will be recast.
The plot in a nutshell: Whitney (Whitney Cummings) and Alex (Chris D'Elia) are happily unmarried. Sure they have their moments like any couple but for the most part they're proud of the comfortable routine they've established after five years together: Whitney being loud and/or obnoxious while Alex rolls his eyes and mocks her. Their friends however have different ideas about relationships: Neal (Maulik Pancholy) and Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) are disgustingly in love while Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn) is a bitter divorcee and cop Mark (Dan O'Brien) is a perpetual bachelor.
Their latest debate involves a Cosmopolitan article which suggests couples who have sex four or five times a week are more likely to stay together than those that don't. ("Five times a week? Who has time for that?" Whitney quips.) Said talk stirs up some unexpected anxieties in Whitney, who decides she and Alex need to be having more sex. Her plan: spice things up with some roleplaying for their impending anniversary. That not surprisingly causes more problems than it fixes as she ultimately realizes she's happy with the way things are.
What works: It feels like it's been a while since we've seen a multi-camera show built around a comedienne so it's nice to see Cummings put herself and her material out there. And certainly, if you're a fan of her standup you'll probably find something to like here.
What doesn't: Between the recycled we-need-to-have-more-sex plot and the continuously piped in laughter, "Whitney" ends up feeling like 22 minutes of milquetoast observations about relationships. Bits in which Whitney accidentally drops her cell phone in the middle of a wedding procession or finds a hammer amongst her underwear drawer land awkwardly at best while jokes generally tend to alternate between stale (Whitney: "I feel like all we ever do is go to weddings. I can't remember the last time I sat down to eat without a DJ telling me to get this party started.") and convoluted (Whitney: "I don't want to end up like my mother, she has seven parrots." Alex: "I thought she had seven therapists?" Whitney: "Yeah, she has 14 things telling her she's pretty.").
Other character tidbits like Whitney being a photographer or food critic Lily starting a blog seem to randomly emerge as quickly as they disappear. That's not to say there aren't a few laughs to be had - the supporting cast in particular seems to be having fun (Roxanne is so bitter she drinks straight out of the bottle! Lily is so sexually active she does her Kegel exercises in public!) - or that there isn't a familiar charm to the proceedings, it's just so bland and conventional, especially when examined in the light of its lead-ins "Community," "Parks & Recreation" and "The Office." All in all, I can't say this show is for me...
The bottom line: ...or for those expecting a certain brand of comedy from NBC.