Sometimes you have to wonder what network executives are thinking. The latest cases in point: The decision made by the decision-makers at CBS to pick-up “Partners,” a startlingly unfunny new sitcom, and the eager enthusiasm expressed by Fox executives (and quite a few critics) for “The Mindy Project,” another freshman comedy that is largely laugh-free.
Based on the real-life relationship of its creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, who are best known for the long-running “Will & Grace,” “Partners” revolves around two longtime best friends who are now in business together. One of the men is straight and rather dull, the other gay and relentlessly annoying. The straight fellow, Joe (David Krumholtz), lives with a very hot young woman named Ali, while the gay guy, Louis (Michael Urie), has a very hot partner named Wyatt. I’d like to see Sophia Bush and Brandon Routh, the actors who portray the significant others, star in a sitcom about a very hot couple, since they are both unexpectedly funny when called upon to be so, but that’s a subject for another time.
Anyway, “Partners” doesn’t work for me largely because I can’t understand why the somewhat ordinary Joe tolerates the intensely irritating Louis. For that matter, after three episodes I still can’t figure out what Ali sees in Joe or what Wyatt loves about Louis, though it’s easy to see what draws Joe and Louis to each of them. But the biggest problem here is the dialogue, which generally alternates between flat and forced, but is really inexcusable when it’s trying to be naughty. For example, during the opening minutes of the second episode, the characters had a spontaneous chat about testicles that was silly and embarrassing, especially when compared to the genital and sexual humor so beloved by the writers of CBS’ “2 Broke Girls,” a sitcom that would be terminally crude were it not for the dismantling charm that the title characters exude when cracking wise about vaginas, orgasms, penises and the like, as they very often do.
Certainly, adult humor is a matter of personal taste, but that doesn’t excuse dialogue as juvenile as the testicle exchange in “Partners,” which began with Joe and Louis’s assistant Ro-Ro delivering messages to them:
“Anything for me?” asked an eager Louis.
“The laser hair removal place called,” Ro-Ro said. “They don’t do balls.” After a mammoth burst of audience laughter, she took note of Louis’ embarrassment and added, “You happy now?”
“Why would I be happy?” Louis shot back. “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” He then continued in a quiet voice, hoping Joe wouldn’t hear him. “Try the place on 14th Street. Tell them it’s a code fuzzy!”
Naturally, Joe heard all of this. “Can I just say as your partner we should probably spend a little more time talking about architecture, since that is our job?” he said to Louis. “Less balls, more walls.”
Later, at the end of the episode, Ro-Ro informed Louis that she had found a hair-removal place that would treat his testicles, which she named “Mary Kate and Ashley.”
“I’ll be back by lunch, smooth like a baby mouse!” Louis happily declared as he scampered out the door.
As disappointing as it is, “Partners” doesn’t belong on the list of the most terrible sitcoms in television history. It’s not even close. But it is clearly one of the worst new shows of any kind this fall season, and it makes for the best example at the moment of a broadcast network supporting a show that would seem to be way out of step with what that network has come to represent. I’m not surprised, for example, to see a couple of terrible new sitcoms on NBC – “Guys with Kids” and “Animal Practice” come immediately to mind – given the depth of that network’s problems in recent years. But what the heck is “Partners” doing on CBS?
As for Fox’s “The Mindy Project,” I wasn’t impressed by its pilot, but I understand that many people are bewitched by the comic charms of its creator and star, Mindy Kaling. I also appreciate the appeal of the supporting players with whom she has wisely surrounded herself, especially Chris Messina, Anna Camp and Ed Weeks.
I would have been happy to leave this one alone for others to enjoy, were it not for the closing scene in last week’s episode, which found Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) and her contentious colleague Danny Castellano (Messina) riding a crowded subway together after an exchange in which a grouchy nurse gave Mindy a punishing punch in the nose. Bandaged and agitated, Mindy was attracting the attention of the other passengers in the subway car, so she seized the opportunity to merrily suggest to them that Danny had hit her, clearly enjoying the discomfort she was causing him.
Since when is woman-beating ever a source of good humor? How is the act of falsely accusing a man of battery even remotely funny? Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I found this sequence to be much more desperate than anything I’ve seen on “Partners” (or any other limp sitcom this season) -- and infinitely more disgraceful.