In Defense of ‘Whitney’
April 3, 2012 § 1 Comment
‘Whitney’ is not the hellaciously bad show everyone acts like it is.
Not even close.
I’ve been meaning to write this post since mid-season, but instead I focused on telling everyone I could that, “No, really, give it a chance, it’s funny,” which felt like doing something, even though it was the laziest possible something.
There were really three early criticism of ‘Whitney':
Criticism No. 1: The summer marketing campaign was relentless and annoying.
This is fair. Whitney Cummings was everywhere. Some of the jokes in those ads weren’t super fun and got old after the second viewing, and rotten after the 12th. I agree. But in the network’s defense, we’re talking about NBC. Can you blame them for trying to make a hit show? You can, and actually you should’ve probably blamed them and not the show itself. Somehow I can’t imagine that Whitney Cummings was sulking around L.A. muttering to herself, “If I was just on a few more buses…”
Criticism No. 2: The two main characters seemed to hate each other for the first few episodes.
OK, fine, but honestly, I bet if you threaded together just 22 minutes of any couples’ week it might easily look like they hate each other, too. I also felt some allegiance to the Whitney and Alex (Chris D’Elia) and their punchline-filled exchanges, because Scott and I operate under a similar relationship law — zing at all costs (i.e., deliver the joke, even if it’s a little mean). We always apologize after! The writers really seemed to focus on fixing that criticism in the second half of the season, intermingling the supporting characters’ relationships, strengthening Alex and Whitney’s relationship (they got engaged, suckers). They even changed Whitney’s hair mid-season from straight-straight-straight to soft ringlets, like they were visually trying to show that things were loosening up. (This was the one element I did not like — I like Whitney’s hair straight! And I felt sad for her whenever I thought about how long she must’ve had to sit in the hair chair before filming all the time. Curls like that don’t come easy.)
Criticism No. 3: Taped before a live studio audience, whaaaaa?
Unusual choice? Sure. Does it ruin the entire experience of the show? I don’t think so. Once the show got past some initial rough patches, and the lines of dialogue where they were obviously just clumsily stitching in lines from Whitney’s standup routines finally went away or got better, I grew to like the live element of it — if only because I find it charming how Whitney completely cracks up every time Alex delivers a zinger. You wouldn’t get those kind of offbeat, unscripted moments from a taped and edited show. It just works for me.
Now, moving away from the criticism (which I think I have effectively brushed off) — there are some things about the show that deserve a little bit of props, including:
I spent the first few episodes of the show sort of liking it and sort of wondering how this goofy guy could possibly be the main love interest. Then a friend of mine gushed about how adorable and charming she found him and I realized, fine, he’s not my cup of tea but he’s plenty of other people’s cup of tea. He now delivers some of the funniest straight-man lines of the show (with a straight face), though the engagement episode did prove that he is terrible at acting drunk.
Rhea Seehorn (The Chick Who Plays Roxanne)
She started out just as a boozy vehicle for punchlines, but the writers worked on developing her a bit more in the second half of the season. But frankly, I was fine with her as a boozy vehicle.
Dan O’Brien (The Dude Who Plays Mark)
Mark gets to deliver, in my opinion, the funniest, most laugh-out-loud lines of the show, because he’s basically representing Whitney’s vision of crass single dudes. The scenes that he’s in are always the funniest of any episode.
Peter Gallagher (Whitney’s Dad)
It makes me happy to see Peter Gallagher get work. I feel like I usually see him in dramatic stuff, but he manages to make every line he delivers on this show — even in the briefest of scenes — very, very funny.
Is it the best show on TV? No. Is it going to win Emmy’s? No. Are you ever going to be chatting about it at cocktail parties? Probably not, but ‘Mad Men’ is back now and that’s what that’s for anyway. I will tell you this much: I have dared anyone who has told me “That show sucks!” to watch a couple episodes. Most of them come back and say, sheepishly, “I started to like it.”
You’ll start to like it.
And if you’re like me, you’ll also start to look forward to season 2. (Let Whitney have straight hair!)