I confess that my attraction to situation comedies is pretty low. I watched Cheers, Seinfeld, Cosby Show, Friends, etc. but never religiously. In short, comedies are rarely must-see TV for me. Part of that is the type of comedy that is out there, which in my mind comes in one of two forms:
- Stars who are “X” — Fat like Mike and Molly, gay like Will, male and single like Men with Kids, neurotic like Whitney, etc. Because you don’t need a premise for a show, you just need to know that fat, gay, single or neurotic people are automatically funny;
- Stereotype extremes — Like Corner Gas or The Office, these are characters who are one-dimensional and who you would never meet in real life. Because one trick ponies are apparently funny.
I confess that sometimes I slip off my high horse and watch the premieres, hoping that someone will rise above the drech that is common. That’s how I started watching How I Met Your Mother (which is consistently inconsistent in quality) and The Big Bang Theory (which has strong archetypes (rather than stereotypes) who are trying to be normal or at least thinking they already are normal). When HIMYM or BBT veer into stereotypes or one-trick ponies, the shows suck, don’t get me wrong. Raj on BBT drives me bonkers, and if I was Ted’s kids on HIMYM, he’d already been dead and buried by now.
But it’s premiere time, and I gave Ben and Kate a try. Ben and Kate are brother and sister, with Kate being a single mom of a five year old girl. The premise sounded potentially interesting — Ben moves in, both trying to grow up, etc. Then the show started, and Ben is a stereotype character culled from an Adam Sandler-casting call reject letter. The dialogue was terrible, woodenly delivered by both Ben and Kate, as well as their friends. Five minutes in I was ready to gouge my eyes out. I thought perhaps I was being harsh, but my wife was in full agreement — the show just plain stunk. Pass.
Partners is a horse of a different colour, but I didn’t have much more luck with it. There are four main characters — two architects and their significant others. Making for a foursome — one hetero couple, one gay. David Krumholtz plays the stable, conservative, rational half of the architect business, and that is not a great opening. I didn’t realize it was him until the show started, and if I had known, I might have taken a pass. I liked him in Numb3rs, and last year’s The Playboy Club, but comedy? A bit wooden, albeit playing a wooden character. Add in the fact that his gf is played by Sophia Bush (Brooke from One Tree Hill) and alarm bells start ringing…except she wasn’t horrendous in the first episode. The real pain comes from ultra-flamboyant Michael Urie playing gay architect Louis…I never watched Ugly Betty (even though, you know, braces must be funny!) so have no idea if he was any good there, but he is so far over the top here, it’s cringe-worthy. Think of Jack from Will and Grace — except make him one of the two leads. Oddly enough, despite the pain, he does pull off the best scenes of the premiere, but only when he’s with Sophia — when you put his partner at home or partner at work in the scene, it dies a quick death.
The oddest casting for me though is Brandon Routh as his gay partner, Wyatt. I thought Routh did a great job rebooting the Superman franchise back in 2006, but the powers-that-be apparently didn’t agree. I also liked him on Chuck. But he plays a somewhat dumbed-down innocent nurse in this series, and there just wasn’t enough of his character to see if it will gel. Unfortunately, though, he also seems to be deigned to be the proverbial double-entendre guy so they can all be “oooh, aren’t we risque, we’re doing double-entendre but with gay entendres!”. Those aspects of the show went over like lead balloons, just nothing there. In the end, the show didn’t completely blow chunks, but with a busy PVR, this one definitely does not make my taping schedule.
See you around the channels…