TV Review: CBS Misses Comedy Mark with Grating, Clichéd ‘Partners’

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CHICAGO – The bad show most likely to be on all year is CBS’s “Partners,” a program that doesn’t deserve its cushy timeslot between “How I Met Your Mother” and “2 Broke Girls” on Monday nights and will likely succeed through ratings osmosis despite being generally pretty horrendous. While other bad new shows like “The Mob Doctor,” “The Neighbors,” and “Guys with Kids” should feel the sharp edge of the cancellation axe, “Partners” will likely be spared just through luck of scheduling although one hopes that the network that realized there was no way to save shows like “Rob!” or “$#*! My Dad Says” comes to the conclusion that this mess deserves a similar fate. Television Rating: 1.0/5.0
Television Rating: 1.0/5.0

Reportedly based on the real-life friendship of creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, “Partners” tells the story of two very different personality types who just happen to be great friends and successful business partners. Joe (David Krumholtz) is a type-A personality, a neurotic who worries over keeping his clients as he celebrates his new engagement to the beautiful Ali (Sophia Bush). Louis (Michael Urie) is Joe’s best friend and the exuberant personality to his buddy’s buttoned-up worrywart. Louis has a love in his life as well in the vegan nurse Wyatt (Brandon Routh). The show’s title is meant to refer to numerous relationships — straight, gay, friends, and business.

Photo credit: CBS

Here’s all you really need to know — I made it through the series premiere of “Partners” because I never review anything that I haven’t seen in its entirety but I couldn’t even get through episode two. The situational humor is incredibly forced (two episodes before the straight couple is having trouble in bed and their gay friend has to step in to help), the references are dated (how on Earth does a Clay Aiken joke get past rewrites in 2012?), and the very structure of the show screams cliche. I’ve gotten flack from some readers for giving relatively generic shows like “2 Broke Girls” a pass based on the fact that, while they are formulaic, there’s something to be said for doing formula well. This is a perfect example of a show doing formula poorly.

Photo credit: CBS

What’s the formula this time? Well, “2 Broke Girls” is very clearly modeled on “Laverne & Shirley” with its working-class female friendship dynamic and “Partners” could easily be viewed as a modern take on “The Odd Couple.” While Joe & Louie couldn’t seem different on paper, they love and need each other not unlike Oscar & Felix. The way these two see the world so differently should be the root of the comedy but the writing on “Partners” relies so heavily on cliche and stereotype that anything that might feel genuine in its relationships disappears.

Imagine a version of “Partners” that took one creative risk. Don’t make Louis so flamboyant and meddlesome. Don’t make Joe so neurotic and predictably cliched. Give Ali and Wyatt some character beyond being plot devices for the two male leads. Don’t write jokes that hit the obvious beats over and over again. He’s straight! He’s gay! There’s nothing risky on “Partners,” nothing that feels creatively inspired in any way.

To be fair, the cast isn’t to blame. In particular, Michael Urie is a funny guy with strong comic timing. He knows how to hit a punchline and how to take an over-the-top character and make him likable. He’s the best thing about the show by far. Krumholtz isn’t bad either but it’s Urie’s show. More damagingly, Bush and Routh seem miscast as neither of them have any chemistry with their respective love partners. Maybe they’ll develop that chemistry over time. If the show is given enough of it for them to do so. It certainly wouldn’t on any other network.

“Partners” stars Michael Urie, David Krumholtz, Sophia Bush, and Brandon Routh. It was created by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick. It premieres on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 7:30pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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