'Partners' Review: A Relationship Comedy Without Chemistry
Monday, September 24, 2012
key to a successful sitcom is chemistry. If the actors are able to
effortlessly play off one another and make you believe in their
relationships, it can save even the most lackluster writing.
Unfortunately, the new CBS comedy Partners is like a school without Bunsen burners: No chemistry.
Partners comes from the creators of Will and Grace and focuses on a pair of lifelong best friends, one straight (David Krumholtz's Joe) and one gay (Michael Urie's Louis). They work together as architects and help each other with their romantic lives. Joe is about to propose to his girlfriend Ali (One Tree Hill's Sophia Bush) while Louis is dating a dim-witted but lovable male nurse named Wyatt (former Superman Brandon Routh).
The biggest problem with Partners is that none of these actors have any chemistry with each other. The friendship between Joe and Louis feels forced and the two romantic couples couldn't be less realistic. The writing isn't that funny and the premise feels about 15 years old, but none of that would really matter if they got the casting right.
Urie, best known as Marc from Ugly Betty, is the only actor whose talents are actually suited for a multi-camera sitcom. His campy, over-the-top gay character feels like a retread of Sean Hayes' Jack from Will and Grace, but at least he's trying to be funny, which is more than I can say for the rest of the cast.
Krumholtz lacks the everyman quality necessary to play the straight man on a sitcom. His TV career has consisted mostly of dramas (Numb3rs, The Newsroom, The Playboy Club), and here he proves that comedy is much harder.
Bush was terrific on One Tree Hill, where her raspy voice and tough, guarded sensitivity worked as melodrama. She's definitely NOT a sitcom actress and doesn't seem to understand the need to play the material for laughs.
Finally there's Routh, who comes close to earning laughs simply by being so absurd. His character is a giant, hot buffoon. The lights are on but nobody's home, and all of his reactions are in dialogue (he says things like "That's funny" or "I'm sorry I got so angry" without giving any actual emotional reaction). There's the potential for greatness in the character if the actor and writers embrace his odd, inhuman reactions, but for the pilot, I was mostly left wondering why on Earth Wyatt would be with Louis.
Partners isn't groundbreaking. It feels like a cheap knock-off of Will and Grace, the Hydrox to the earlier show's Oreo. In a TV landscape with Modern Family and The New Normal, Partners brings nothing new or interesting to the world of gay sitcom characters.
But as I said, that wouldn't really matter with the right cast. I look back at Will and Grace, where all four principal actors (Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally) won Emmys for their work. That was a tremendous ensemble of stars who understood broad sitcom humor.
Unfortunately for Partners, the cast doesn't have that same magic. If Krumholtz, Bush and Routh were all recast, Partners might be a show worth checking out, but as it stands, this show will more likely become the next How to Be a Gentleman, not the next 2 Broke Girls.(meaning: Prepare for a quick cancellation and the rapid return of Rules of Engagement to fill the time slot).)
Some people may wonder what a casting director does or why there's an Emmy Award for it. What makes shows like Girls, Glee, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Sex and the City and Arrested Development worthy of that honor? Well, looking at Partners, it becomes obvious. Assembling the right group of actors who mesh perfectly together and make a successful comedy isn't as easy as you might think.
Partners airs Mondays at 8:30pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)