'Whitney' premiere a half hour without laughs

‘Whitney’ may very well be the most heavily promoted show in the new fall season, but does it deserve a spot in NBC’s coveted Thursday night comedy block?

TLeopold/ZUMA Press/Newscom
'Whitney' stars Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Elia

Proving that months of promotions don’t always result in quality programming, NBC’s forced frontrunner comedy for the new fall season, Whitney, is a terribly conceived series, which is riddled with horribly inept dialogue, poorly realized characters, and an awkward presentation of the slowly dying three-camera sitcom format.

Attempting to be the sitcom of a new generation, Whitney assumes the familiar premise of dealing with the differences between men and women in a long-term relationship – but with a twist, or edge… or whatever.

With a formulaic plot that, in and of itself, leaves much to be desired, what’s left for those looking for a new comedy series to add to their television viewing schedule is a litany of poorly acted scenes wrapped in the most inappropriate television format for the material presented.

While it can be said that many of the specific jokes in Whitney were technically funny, the use of a three camera sitcom, combined with Whitney Cummings familiar delivery from her stand-up career (that somehow made its way to everyone else in the cast), makes for a completely uncomfortable viewing experience.

Not because the jokes were “over-the-top” or “edgy” but because each punch-line was delivered so forcefully that it felt as if the actors weren’t completely behind the words that they were saying, or that it was actually funny (even if it was). This is something that was obviously felt by the ridiculously coerced live studio audience that was in attendance during the taping.

Despite the fact that Whitney Cummings so proudly announces that the show is filmed in front of a studio audience during the title card, one has to ask themselves whether the laughter heard in the pilot came from said studio audience, or from television’s familiar laugh track.

Even if every joke came off amazingly (which they didn’t) and the studio audience laughed at each and every one of them, it’s hard to believe that they would have responded with the same boisterous laughter that annoyingly remained throughout. Speaking as someone who has heard rough cuts of sitcoms filmed in front of a studio audience, I can honestly said that I’ve never heard this type of raucous laughter. While I’m not saying Whitney used canned laughter, there’s some audible shenanigans afoot.

That being said, the problem with Whitney is not that the audience laughter sounds fakes OR that the actors are delivering a terrible performance OR that the general thematic tone of the series is poorly defined. The real problem is that, for all intents and purposes, Whitney is trying to shove material best suited for a single camera comedy in a three camera sitcom environment.

While that’s not generally a bad thing – or something that cannot be done – it’s more than obvious that during the development of the series, the appropriate planning and discussions never occurred. Instead of attempting to figure out how to evolve the quickly dying sitcom format into something that can competently present their brand of material, they more or less shoved all of their ideals into a genre that’s ill-equipped to handle it.

At times, one often wants to play the “pilot card” when certain series come off as overtly rough and disjointed in their first episode – and, in this instance, there’s some room to say that things may get better as the series progresses. Perhaps not as much room as the series creators would hope, but it’s there none the less.

Of course, even if Whitney does get better, there’s still going to be one question that many viewers will be asking themselves: why did NBC cancel Outsourced for this?

Why, indeed.

Anthony Ocasio blogs at Screen Rant.

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