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One of the things that works beautifully with FX’s comedy series Louie is the way the show seems to be molded around Louis CK’s style of comedy, rather than his comedy style being shaped to fit a sitcom format. Louie has a rhythm that flows perfectly with Louis CK’s sense of humor, allowing us to watch a show that feels like his stand-up act in sitcom form. If Whitney has one notable flaw, it’s that it feels as though Whitney Cummings has been adapted to fit a sitcom, rather than the sitcom being adapted to fit her.
I’m relatively new to being a fan of Whitney Cummings. My first experience with her stand-up comedy was watching one of the Comedy Central Roasts. I liked her delivery and her blunt, honest (ok, fairly crass) sense of humor so much that I found and watched Whitney Cummings: Money Shot on Netflix and was not disappointed. There’s a bite to her wit that makes even the simplest of jokes seem funnier upon delivery. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of that going in on Whitney.
NBC’s Whitney stars Cummings as the title character, a happily unmarried woman living with Alex (Chris D’Elia). The pilot episode has the couple going to a wedding, which is a good opportunity to open up the subject of why Whitney and Alex aren’t married. The issue is mainly on Whitney’s end. She’s happy with the arrangement they have, though a conversation about sex has her wondering if maybe things have gotten a bit stale.
Playing Whitney’s friends are Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn). While Lily’s a hopeless romantic, Roxanne is a recent divorcee and thus, a bit jaded on the subject of love and marriage. Their perspectives on the subject of romance serve as a sort of yin and yang in Whitney’s life, where she falls somewhere in the middle, less concerned about the “until death do us part” and more content to focus on the here and now.
The set-up for Whitney is simple, though I expect the multi-camera format to contrast greatly in all the wrong ways against everything else NBC has going on on Thursday nights. The humor is fine, but again, this is a series that’s lining itself up next to Community, The Office, and Parks & Recreation. Fine may not be enough.
I had the bar set high for this one, hoping the series would be an offshoot of Cummings' comedy act, much in the way other sitcoms have been for the stand-up comedians who've starred in them. Whitney really isn't that, but it is amusing. Cummings is charming and there are some good lines. But the series isn’t doing anything new or exciting, nor does it make the most of its star. If we were looking at Whitney Cummings in true form, which due to language and subject matter, probably wouldn't work on network television, I believe she’d be great as a TV comedy lead, however Whitney feels like an edited-for-TV/adapted-for-sitcom version of the comedian.
Is Whitney worth checking out? Sure. There’s always a chance that things will begin to come together more as we get to know Whitney, Alex and their friends. In the meantime, I’m on the fence about this one as far as how much I'll watch, but I like Cummings enough to stick it out for at least a couple more episodes.
Whitney premieres Thursday, September 22nd at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.