NBC’s newest darling, WHITNEY, joins the coveted Thursday night lineup amid high expectations. The show is the fourth in a lineup of heavy comedy hitters: Community, Parks and Recreation and The Office. What sets WHITNEY apart from its predecessors is how it’s filmed – the show goes old school using multi-cameras in front of a live audience, even though they use a laugh-track.
Whitney Cummings (Chelsea Lately) stars as Whitney, a quirky and somewhat neurotic photographer who is happily unmarried to her live-in boyfriend, Alex (Chris D’Elia, “Glory Daze”). Whitney and Alex have been together for three years and aren’t in any rush to get married, which is what the pilot episode focuses on.
The opening scene shows Whitney and Alex in front of a bathroom mirror primping and working around each other as they posture for coveted counter space. As the couple gets ready, we learn that they’re headed to another wedding in a long line of friend’s weddings. Whitney’s disdain for the upcoming event reinforces the validity of their nonconformist relationship. As they get dressed, the couple shares a humorous, yet realistic, banter where we get to learn a little more about them as individuals and as a couple. It’s refreshing to watch a sitcom couple who actually behaves like a real couple. The chemistry between Alex and Whitney feels authentic – they communicate like a couple who has been living together for a few years.
The rest of the characters who round out the cast include Lily and Neal (Zoe Lister-Jones and Maulik Pancholy), a new couple in the middle of that “we can’t get enough of each other” stage; Mark (Dan O’Brien), the chauvinistic friend who has more bravado than brains; and Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn), the quick-witted, brazen divorcee of the group. While the supporting cast could easily be written off as standard fare characters, it’s their melodramatic portrayal of the sitcom archetypes that make them truly entertaining to watch.
The only real downfall of the pilot was when the storyline veered off course and fell into a typical, Jack Tripper pratfall. While at the wedding, Whitney and Alex are talking with their friends and the conversation turns to relationships and sex. Realizing that she and Alex are in a rut, Whitney decides to spice things up by surprising Alex with a little role play. Dressed up in a slutty nurse’s costume, she makes the scene all too real by requiring Alex’s insurance card and making him fill out forms. The scene was bubbling with fresh humor right up to the part where Alex knocks himself out cold while removing his pants on the way to the bedroom.
WHITNEY definitely has the potential to be a “must see TV” show as long as the writers don’t continue to take the same safe route that they took in the pilot. For this show to be successful, the writers need to loosen the reins and push some boundaries.
WHITNEY airs on NBC at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday nights.