In a sense, Whitney feels like the most conventional new sitcom to hit airwaves this fall (at least of the shows I’ve been checking out, and so I didn’t have extremely high expectations for it). Unlike 2 Broke Girls, also the product of Whitney creator and star Whitney Cummings, it doesn’t have a particularly strong frame narrative. And unfortunately, like Free Agents, it’s got a deeply annoying cast of backup characters including a piggish police officer, a drunk divorcee (who, to be fair, gets the great line when someone tells her she can’t wear pants to a wedding “I pay alimony to a husband who does spoken word for a living. I could wear cargo pants.”), and an irritatingly in love couple. Are we really getting less of Maulik Pancholy on 30 Rock so he can do this?
Fortunately, Cummings and Chris D’Elia, who plays her character’s long-term boyfriend Alex, have a really nice warm chemistry. The opening scene of them sparring over the bathroom mirror, eyeliner on Whitney’s temple, Alex using Whitney’s hoodie as a towel, all felt natural and fun, like an actual couple that’s been together for five years but still enjoys pushing each other’s buttons.
As for the rest of the show, Whitney feels like something that I’m glad exists, even if I don’t really feel engaged by it. Are there more dramatic, or funnier ways to illustrate the problems that couples, both straight and more particularly gay, face on things like hospital visitation than to have Whitney try to talk her way to Alex’s beside in the hospital while she’s wearing a sexy nurse’s outfit? Sure, but it’s still useful to have someone dramatize it. Is Alex declaring, “You can forget Cosmo studies, and your can forget your Mom, and forget all that stuff. This is about me and you. This is the best part of being together for so long. You can wear your hair up, or down, or hoodies, or whatever, I don’t care,” the last word in feminism? No, but it’s still the kind of thing that it’s good to have people say until women stop pressuring themselves about marriage.