Friday, December 9, 2011

"Christmas is Cummings" for Whitney

     NBC's Whitney ends its fall run with "Christmas is Cummings." Whitney (Whitney Cummings) and Alex (Chris D'Elia) plan to start new Christmas traditions with their friends, and lie to their families to do so. However, Whitney's mom, Patti (Jane Kaczmarek, Raising the Bar, Malcolm in the Middle), and dad, Vince (Peter Gallagher, Covert Affairs, The O.C.) show up anyway, and Whitney must lie to get rid of them. Feeling bad, she goes to apologize, only to find them sleeping together. This is unexpected, since they hate each other, and aren't a couple.

     Kaczmarek is a delight in her second appearance as Patti, and Gallagher really shows viewers something far different from his current USA role. The two are totally believable as Whitney's parents, and their craziness goes a long way towards explaining why Whitney is a little messed up in the head. One can only hope the two will return over and over again to give more insight on the title character of Whitney.

     In the truth-must-be-told tradition Whitney tries to begin, a very startling secret comes out. Alex admits, in front of Whitney's parents and all of their friends, that he almost dumped Whitney after meeting her parents. It's a shocking bombshell, and one not dealt with enough in the episode. Alex assures Whitney that she is a great person, and he is glad he didn't break up with her. Still, despite Whitney's wonderful expression after the confession, she doesn't talk about it with him later. Perhaps they don't need to talk, as Whitney and Alex already have a perfect chemistry. This is demonstrated in "Christmas is Cummings" when they join hands at the end. But Whitney doesn't seem the type to let something like this go, and there are so many juicy possibilities that could spring from the loaded statement, that it's a shame they aren't delved into.

     As Whitney and Alex try to lie to the folks, Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn) points out that they all dislike their families, or else they wouldn't be gathering with their friends instead. This is a television conceit that has been around for a very long time, but one wonders where it comes from. Sure, it is convenient to not have main character all return to their homes at Christmas, thus negating the need to have lots of different sets and guest stars. But is it realistic? Certainly not where I'm from. People want to be with their families, and often enjoy them. This is a bad stereotype being given, and it's lazy writing.

     At least the supporting characters on Whitney are becoming more developed, though sadly this is barely touched on this week. Roxanne is interesting when she stays sober and pines for her marriage in "Christmas is Cummings." Neal's (Maulik Pancholy) lack of Christmas traditions should become fodder for next year's seasonal special. Mark (Daniel G. O'Brien) has little to do this week, but is seemingly a good friend who has a fine relationship with Alex. Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) is probably the least layered, but given more time, perhaps she can grow into a person.

    In January, Whitney will move to Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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