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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Whitney has some whit

     NBC's newest addition to the Thursday night sitcom line up is Whitney. In the "Pilot," Whitney Cummings (Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Lately) attends yet another wedding with her boyfriend of three years, Alex (Chris D'Elia, Glory Daze). There, the conversation convinces Whitney that they are not having enough sex. Determined to correct that so she doesn't lose Alex, though she doesn't like the idea of marriage, Whitney buys a sexy nurse costume. But sex night is ruined when Alex falls and hits his head, requiring real medical attention.

     Whitney is better than the commercials make it out to be. For one thing, Whitney has some pretty funny laugh lines. For another, Cummings and D'Elia have great chemistry as a loving, modern couple. The series does better than most at capturing a realistic dating life in this day and age. True to Whitney's nature, Whitney doesn't glamorize and exaggerate sex. Also like Whitney's comedy, this can be mined for laughs.

     If one wonders how Whitney got the way she is, her character's mother (Jane Kaczmarek, Raising the Bar, Malcolm in the Middle) shows up at the hospital, complaining about what a terrible father Whitney has. With someone as self-absorbed as her mom, one wonders how Whitney turned out half as good as she did, and it is surprising the girl even still believes in love. It also adequately explains the anti-marriage attitude. In an era with so many divorces, the next generation isn't so willing to commit.

     The cast is rounded out by four other performers, who play Whitney and Alex's friends. Maulik Pancholy should be recognizable enough for his roles on 30 Rock, Weeds, and Web Therapy. Rhea Seehorn has had parts on Franklin & Bash and Head Cases, and Zoe Lister Jones is in Delocated. Dan O'Brien merely has a few small credits to his name. They'll all fine, though, at least in the "Pilot," generic and interchangeable, especially the guys. This show is about Whitney and Alex, and anyone else is just extraneous.

     Whitney would benefit from dropping the laughing. No, it's not a track. Whitney is filmed before a live audience. But the noise is distracting, and often comes after jokes that just aren't all that funny. The series isn't bad, but would soar a little better without the chuckling dragging it down.

     Only time will tell whether Whitney deserves to be in a great comedy line up, but the first episode shows promise, if not a lot of originality. Watch Whitney Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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