The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall. To help you prepare for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next on our list is.…
THE SHOW | NBC’s Whitney (Thurdays at 9:30/8:30c, premiering Sept. 22)
THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Fox’s Bones, CBS’ Person of Interest (new), and The CW’s The Secret Circle (new)
THE CAST | Whitney Cummings (Chelsea Lately), Chris D’Elia (Glory Daze), Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock), Zoe Lister-Jones, Rhea Seehorn (The Starter Wife) and Dan O’Brien
THE SET-UP | Cummings, a tart stand-up comedienne by trade, plays Whitney, a photographer who is happily unmarried to Alex (D’Elia). Their circle of sitcom friends include treacly lovebirds Lily and Neal (Lister-Jones and Pancholy), brassy/boozy divorcee Roxanne (Seehorn) and “ladies man” Mark (O’Brien). The pilot, directed by sitcom vet Andy Ackerman (Seinfeld), finds the group navigating a wedding, then dealing with Alex’s ER visit in the wake of a sexual role-playing escapade gone wrong.
More of TVLine’s First Impressions: NBC’s Up All Night and The Playboy Club, Fox’s Terra Nova and New Girl, ABC’s Pan Am, Once Upon a Time and Charlie’s Angels, The CW’s Hart of Dixie, The Secret Circle and Ringer, CBS’ Unforgettable, 2 Broke Girls and Person of Interest
THE GOOD | D’Elia makes up for any of Cummings’ shortcomings as a first-time sitcom star with some winning line deliveries and reaction shots (partly because he has one of those eyebrows); his “unfinished” appearance is also refreshing. Pancholy, for too long relegated to seven seconds of weekly screen time as Jack Donaghy’s aggressively loyal assistant, gets to stretch his legs and play an amusing, less creepy character.
THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | When I was fresh out of college, my then-writing partner and I churned out a few sitcom spec scripts, and Whitney came off like the lesser of them. The pilot is quite traditional and sitcommy, no better exemplified than the cold open during which Whitney and Alex debate her choice of wedding attire. What most disappointed me about the pilot is that Cummings can be extremely funny on stage, but her humor comes from a caustic place. The fictional Whitney is “loud” (as one wedding guest notes) but surprisingly barb-free, and she’s certainly not outrageous. It’s a curious mismatch of sassy comedienne and homogenized role. Among the supporting characters, Mark is the latest member of TV’s growing douchebag club — obviously envisioned as a Barney Stinson-like scene-stealing cad, yet with not a drop of charm — while I feel like I’ve seen the Roxanne type on myriad other shows.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | I don’t envy any sitcom leading out of a sure to be scrutinized season of The Office, and if Whitney fails to retain enough of that audience, NBC would be wise to promptly put Parks and Recreation (currently slotted for the 8:30 slot) back where it belongs. Diving headfirst into the scripted TV waters this fall with not one but two shows, Cummings should find solace in the fact that CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, which she co-created and is producing, will be a crowd-pleaser.