CBS' new comedy Partners manages to get off to a good start as it introduces us to two lifelong male friends, one of whom is straight, while the other is gay. We soon learn that their friendship with one another may be as close, if not closer, than the relationships they have with their significant others.
Created by Will & Grace's David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, Partners follows Louis (Michael Urie) and Joe (David Krumholtz), two life-long friends who now work as architects together. Both are in serious relationships, as Joe is dating Ali (Sophia Bush), while Louis is dating Ryatt (Brandon Routh). Being close friends and working partners, it's hard to see where Joe and Louis' friendship fits against their romantic relationships, but that's part of the fun in this series. They're as close as brothers, but both seriously involved with other people.
Being a multi-camera comedy, there's a heavy emphasis on dialogue. Both episodes feel more like a serious of fast-spoken conversations, with a lot of quick one-liners and amusing innuendoes strung together in any given scene. The dynamic of the straight friend and the gay friend is something that's played up quite a bit, but it all works well because the writing is funny and the characters are charming.
The straight/gay dynamic between Urie and Krumholtz' character is heavily emphasized in the first two episodes, but what is just as evident and likely just as important to the foundation of this series is the history Louis and Joe share. Both episodes start with a flashback of Joe and Louis as kids, and then we jump forward to the present to see how that scene relates to whatever it is they're dealing with in the present day. In the case of the second episode, it's Louis meddling in Joe's love life, and feeling as though Joe never does anything for him in return. Cut to the future when Louis is at it again, making attempts to help Joe with his fiancé and feeling underappreciated for his efforts. Their friendship is the most endearing thing about this series going into it, and it's the reason I'll be tuning in again.
Sophia Bush's Ali feels a bit underdeveloped from the first two episodes. Aside from being Joe's loving girlfriend, it's hard to get a good read on her, but I expect we'll get to know her a bit better as the series goes on. Meanwhile, Brandon Routh's character Wyatt is equally hard to read, though that seems more intentional in his case. He proves to be very practical in situations that might otherwise call for emotion, and that's played up to be funny, particularly in the second episode. I could see the writers hitting a dead end there, though, so if there's one character that might evolve drastically from the beginning, it's Wyatt.
I'll admit, I went into this series already a fan of Michael Urie from Ugly Betty and David Krumholtz from pretty much Life with Mikey through 10 Things I Hate About You to the short-lived NBC drama The Playboy Club - so there was some definite bias there. But it's also worth noting that most of the comedies I prefer these days are single camera comedies. How I Met Your Mother is one of the few exceptions to my format preference, and with its multi-camera format, Partners may be as well.
I like the dynamic between Joe and Louis, and that's as much a credit to the writing as it is to Michael Urie and David Krumholtz' chemistry together. I'd like to see a bit more character development, particularly with Routh's Wyatt and Bush's Ali, but with the focus intentionally set on Louis and Joe, Partners gets off to a solid start. It's funny, clever and offers a balanced serving of humor and heart. For years, I've been waiting for a CBS comedy series that would fit right next to How I Met Your Mother. At the risk of speaking too soon, I think Partners just might be it.
Partners premieres Monday (Sept 24) at 8:30/7:30c p.m. on CBS