Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NBC Fall Pilot Review: Whitney - Premieres September 22; Designing Women, Cybill, Dharma & Greg Coming to TV Guide Network Fall 2011 Schedule

Whitney

Whitney - Thursdays 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 9:30PM ET/PT


Whitney is a hilarious look at modern-day love, which centers around Whitney (Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Lately) and Alex (Chris D'Elia, Glory Daze), a happily unmarried couple. Together for three years, the duo is in no rush to get hitched, which seems to get a mixed response from their friends.

Whitney's close circle of opinionated girlfriends include Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is sweet, upbeat, and ready to get married, and Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn, The Starter Wife) a divorcee who is not afraid to speak her mind, but has not given up on love completely. When they get together, they often discuss their varying relationships and how to deal with everyday life and seemingly have fun at the same time.

Completing their close-knit group is Neal (Maulik Pancholy, 30 Rock) a real contemporary renaissance man—sensitive, cool, and knows a little bit about everything – and happens to be dating Lily. On the other end of the spectrum is Whitney and Alex's next-door neighbor Mark (Dan O'Brien, How I Met Your Mother), a police officer and total bachelor who claims to be the ultimate player but likes to talk a good game.

At the end of the day, 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.


Cast Details:

Whitney Cummings as Whitney Cummings
Chris D'Elia as Alex Miller
Maulik Pancholy as Neal
Rhea Seehorn as Roxanne
Zoe Lister-Jones as Lilly
Daniel G. O'Brien as Mark
Jane Kaczmarek as Patti Morris, Whitney's mother (recurring guest star)


Whitney Cummings (Whitney) is the title star and executive producer of Whitney. A Los Angeles-based comedian, actor, writer and producer, Cummings also co-created and co-wrote, along with Michael Patrick King, the comedy Two Broke Girls, starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs. Last year, Cummings' hour-long Comedy Central stand-up special, Money Shot, was nominated for an American Comedy Award. As a comedian, Cummings appears regularly on E!'s Chelsea Lately and Comedy Central's Comedy Central Roasts. She got her start starring on MTV's Punk'd.

Comedian Chris D'Elia, (Alex Miller) East Coast-born and West Coast-raised, found himself in Los Angeles, performing every night of the week and quickly becoming a regular at all the Hollywood clubs. His silly, physical humor is what sets him apart from other comedians. D'Elia was recently a series regular in the TBS hour-long series Glory Daze, where he played a college frat-boy burnout. He also has been featured on Lopez Tonight and Showtime's Live Nude Comedy. In addition, D'Elia can be seen in the 2011 half-hour comedy showcase, Comedy Central Presents.

Zoe Lister-Jones (Lily) is a Brooklyn-born actor, writer and producer. Her film Breaking Upwards, which she co-wrote, produced and starred in with director Daryl Wein, was released theatrically by IFC in 2010. For television, Lister-Jones reprised her role as Kim on the live-action Adult Swim series Delocated for Seasons 1 and 2 and guest starred on HBO's Bored to Death and The Good Wife. On Broadway, Lister-Jones received excellent reviews for The Little Dog Laughed.

Maulik Pancholy (Neal) has established himself as one of Hollywood's most distinctive, versatile and impressive performers. Pancholy is best known for his recurring role on the critically acclaimed, Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winning NBC comedy "30 Rock." Pancholy stars as Jonathan, the loyal assistant to Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). In 2009, Pancholy shared the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. He also shared the SAG Award nomination with the cast for this same category in 2008 and in 2011.

Daniel G. O'Brien (Mark) has worked extensively in theater in New York City with The Atlantic Theater Company, MCC, The Present Company, The Flea Theater and The Vineyard Theater, among others. In the UK, O'Brien has performed at the Camden People's Theater in London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, garnering a Scotsman Fringe First Award for his work. With his wife and playwright-in-residence, Julie Shavers, he has directed and produced four plays, most recently Silver Bullet Trailer, which was developed with the Royal Court Theater and Present Company and performed at The Ohio Theater in New York.

Rhea Seehorn (Roxanne) grew up in Virginia and graduated from college with a degree in drama and visual arts. Theatrically trained, she further developed her craft in Washington D.C., performing on many stages including Arena Stage and the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, where she is a member of the acting company. Seehorn then moved to Manhattan, performing with Playwrights Horizons. She made her Broadway debut as an understudy in Neil Simon's 45 Seconds from Broadway. Shortly thereafter, she was cast as a series regular on I'm with Her opposite Teri Polo, David Sutcliffe and Danny Comden. Since relocating to Los Angeles, she has had series regular and recurring roles in The Starter Wife, Head Cases, Trust Me, The Dollhouse, Burn Notice and a supporting role in the Disney feature Shaggy Dog opposite Tim Allen.


Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" - When Whitney and Alex, a happily unmarried couple, attend one of their friends' weddings, Whitney realizes that she and Alex are dangerously close to relationship boredom after three years together. Determined not to let that happen, Whitney consults her close circle of opinionated girlfriends Lily and Roxanne. Snapping into action she tries to seduce Alex in a sexy costume, but someone winds up in the emergency room.

Written by Whitney Cummings
Directed by Andy Ackerman


Analysis:

Whitney is a multi-camera sitcom, one of the few to debut in recent years. Television seems to be moving more toward single-camera comedy, and while many of them are funny, it's nice to see an old-fashioned multi-camera one. The show is co-produced and created by star Whitney Cummings, who gained fame as a regular on Punk'd and a frequent panelist on Chelsea Lately. As the host of that show, Chelsea Handler, often chose comedians that shared her type of comedy, a lot of parallels can be drawn between her and Whitney Cummings. Cummings' brash comedy tends to focus on relationships, sex, and the differences between men and women.

Romance, relationships, and sex are the main topics of the show, with women in all sorts of different relationships depicted. Whitney and her boyfriend Alex are not married, and happy to be in that situation. Whitney's friend Lily is desperate to get married, and her other friend Roxanne is recently divorced but not giving up yet. Her mother, Patti, has been divorced three times and has completely given up on men. The plot of the pilot episode is believable, though the wedding scene seemed to do nothing for the plot except introduce all of the characters. Cummings humor is quite brash at times, and while some may find that a turn-off, I honestly found it quite funny. She knows how to do sex jokes without them being distasteful. Whitney and Alex are the main subjects of the show as they deal with the crazy relationships around them.

In the pilot, after attending a friend's wedding (and making a fool of herself by eating wedding cupcakes before the bride and groom "cut" the cupcake-cake), she decides her relationship with Alex is growing stale. So after enlisting advice from her friends, she ends up at a sex shop, and buys a nurse outfit to surprise Alex on their third anniversary. Things go horribly wrong, and Alex ends up hitting his head on the kitchen counter, giving himself a concussion... making Whitney realize how much she really does love him. I liked the plot and thought it had definite funny moments, but the cast somehow feels a bit too large. I realize that they're trying to show relationships from all angles, but I found myself having a hard time keeping up with who's who. The mother character played by the always-hilarious Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) was only in one scene, and I felt like she should have been used more in the pilot. I understand her role was originally played by Beverly D'Angelo, and all her scenes were reshot.


Conclusion:

Whitney Cummings is a funny comedian, and her take on relationships and sex is quite funny. There aren't a lot of shows on the air right now that have women in such brash, leading roles. Whitney is placed in the middle of NBC's Thursday night comedy lineup, but I'm not sure that is exactly the right place for it. While it is a very funny show, I'm not sure it's "Must-See TV," and I'm not sure how well it will fit in with the other shows that are (and three single-camera series). Hopefully, being scheduled after The Office will help in the ratings. For now, the show will be reaired the following night at 8:30PM for a few weeks, so maybe that will bring in some extra eyes as well.

I still feel like the cast is too large and it's hard to keep up with the characters. Ladies' man Mark isn't a very likeable character, but perhaps that's what they are going for, and I feel like Jane Kaczmarek should be given more of a starring role in the show. Nonetheless, I hope the show does well, and I hope people like the over-the-top strong comedy of Whitney Cummings.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

-- Reviewed by Greg Brobeck on 09/21/11

Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, September 21 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Whitney Photo Gallery


    Preview:






    More sitcoms are coming to the TV Guide Network this Fall! We can call this TV Guide Fall 2011 schedule part two! We already told you that Ned & Stacey, Veronica's Closet and Samantha Who? have joined the network, but now three more sitcoms are being added -- and these are more long-running series! Effective Monday, October 3, 2011, Designing Women, Cybill and Dharma & Greg will join the weekday line-up. Designing Women will air weekdays at 1:00pm & 1:30pm, followed by Cybill at 2:00pm & 2:30pm. Ugly Betty will move again, this time to 3pm & 4pm, leading into an hour of Dharma & Greg at 5pm. The 6-8pm line-up of shorter-lived sitcoms we mentioned already, will remain on the schedule. However, the 11am-1pm encores will no longer be airing, as TV Guide Network has acquired the cable rights to new first-run syndicated talk show Last Shot with Judge Gunn and will be airing weekdays in the 12 noon hour. The encores of Samantha Who, Ned & Stacey and Veronica's Closet (in this order) will now air 12am-2am.
    Like the shorter-lived sitcoms, these comedies also star women such as Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Cybill Shepherd, and Jenna Elfman. Designing Women will get a two-hour block on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 3-5pm to kick things off, with the first four episodes airing, so tune in for that! Georgia on my mind!
    Discuss these new additions to the TV Guide Network Fall 2011 schedule.


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