Partners' Series Premiere: Fresh and Funny, or Lazy and Regressive and Idiotic and Terrible?

Partners S01E01: "Pilot"

Where does one even begin to evaluate a three-camera sitcom these days? The mere presence of a laugh track in 2012 is basically the producers declaring, "This is not art. Don't think about it. We'll tell you when to laugh." Sure, there have been some high quality—even important—three-camera sitcoms throughout TV history, but man has it been a while since the last one. Was it Seinfeld, a show that eschewed common farcical plotlines for something more esoteric? Or was it Will & Grace, the sitcom brave enough to have a gay man as its titular lead? But let's be honest, the modern sitcom vanguard features no laugh tracks. Larry David no longer needs one and neither do we.

Partners, though, comes from Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, the brains behind Will & Grace. That series was a much-loved, smart, and often very funny show about a gay man, his best lady pal, and their much funnier friends. So does Partners' pedigree somehow vault it above the grim, populist, ad-selling bonanzas that are Chuck Lorre's current slate of hits? Nope! Partners is very terrible! But the conundrum is that it's also very similar to Will & Grace in tone, energy, and sense of humor. So why was one a classic but the other an embarrassment? As it turns out, we the viewers have grown a lot since Jack McFarland last flitted across our TV screens. What was once risky and forward-thinking is now regressive horse-sh*t. That's Partners.

So right now we can only evaluate Partners based on its pilot (frequently a series' weakest episode), but here's what we have to go on: Two grown men—allegedly successful architects—have known each other since childhood and have presumably been exchanging barbs about their Jewishness and/or gayness every day since. As played by David Krumholtz (as Joe the straight) and Michael Urie (as Louis the gay), the men have a codependent relationship that the show would have us believe is paramount to all others, except that in the pilot a simple misunderstanding caused them to have a COMPLETE FALLING OUT. Like, friendship-ending, business-dissolving falling out. It all began when Joe told Louis (in between terrible, terrible gay jokes) that he intended to break up with his girlfriend Ali (a likable Sophia Bush) because he didn't feel like getting married just yet. But then, once Joe got Ali alone, he decided to propose instead. Despite the fact that Joe and Louis are VERY close (that's the premise of this whole show!), Joe didn't mention to Louis his sudden change in plans (or change in LIFE) at all. So the next morning Louis attended yoga class with Ali assuming that she'd been dumped and accidentally revealed that Joe was originally going to dump her and she did NOT take it well. You know? Louis was simply operating off of the information he was given. A simple misunderstanding that could have been explained in one well-worded sentence. But because this is a terrible sitcom instead of real life, Joe became livid at Louis for ruining everything (and Louis bizarrely agreed that HE was in the wrong, and not, somehow, the monstrous so-called friend whose fault this was in the first place). Anyway, Louis proceeded to use his sassy gay charm to get Ali and Joe back together, save the partnership, and save the friendship. And then everyone enjoyed a nice cup of espresso together at the local coffee shop. Cue laugh track, cue applause.

Just seeing that series of events spelled out on my computer screen makes them seem more reasonable than they came across during the actual show. What's missing, of course, is the overwhelmingly unfunny "I'm a gay!" "I'm a Jew!" type jokes that these characters all speak in. You know how when you get together with a childhood best friend (someone whose very soul you've become intimate with) and you only talk about the most surface-level things about each other? No? Probably because that's not how human beings behave. Obviously sitcoms offer a heightened reality, but good ones do so in the service of revealing human truths. There are no human beings here, there are only idiotic, shallow ciphers who toss off punchlines that seem clever until you think about them for even a second. Like, the slightly racist Latina caricature secretary seems to hate Louis enough that she'd shut him down with "Joke joke joke, gay gay gay, I will cut you," but then in her next scene kindly offer to let him nestle his face in her cleavage? I don't know WHAT was going on there except that it wasn't funny. So what was the point?

Aside from the inherent likability of Sophia Bush, probably the only other thing I liked about Partners was Louis's dummy-hunk boyfriend Wyatt (Superman Returns' Brandon Routh), whose obliviousness toward basic reality (and especially Louis's overt hatefulness) suggest that he might have mental problems. Though Routh refreshingly plays Wyatt without a stereotypical gay affect, the writers do him no favors by turning him into a stone-cold idiot. A repeated joke in which Wyatt made reference to a heart-shaped pin he was wearing ("I have a heart-on") never made sense in context, and it definitely didn't make sense that he couldn't hear himself saying "hard-on." I don't know. I'm not a comedy doctor, but this joke and others like it just didn't work. Speaking of doctors, Louis's insistence that he was embarrassed that Wyatt was a nurse instead of a doctor was so loathsome as to make me despise Louis. In what world is the repeated job-shaming of a significant other not a dump-able offense?

Another thing: These characters are YOUNG. They are maybe 30. So why do they all speak and behave like wealthy 50-year-olds who grew up in the Catskills? Partners repeatedly betrays a huge disconnect between the type and class of person writing the show (wealthy Los Angeles TV producers—Mutchnick and Kohan based this on their own lives) and the supposedly young, normal people it claims to portray. What young gay man has ever enjoyed Clay Aiken, let alone gotten a tattoo of Clay Aiken on his ass like Louis supposedly did? (Clay Aiken has an older FEMALE fan base, you out-of-touch, aging homosexual millionaires!) And what kind of person in 2012 would be in a relationship with Brandon Routh yet feel the need to lie to others that he is both a doctor and Jewish? Nobody. Not only is this show not an accurate portrait of young people gay or otherwise, it's not even an accurate portrayal of human beings.

In conclusion, I get it. Partners is a sitcom and it's not meant to be analyzed for deeper meaning. Still, I hate this thing, get out of here, Partners!


What did YOU think of Partners' pilot? Will you be tuning in again?

Comments (48)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
I liked the chemistry between Urie and Krumholtz and Sophie Bush is very likable. I do find Urie's character a wee bit like the one he played on Ugly Betty but this one is less bitchy. I liked this episode so I'm gonna give them a try.
Reply
Flag
So, how come no one is talking about how this show was already on the air? 1995 on fox

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partners_(1995_TV_series)
Reply
Flag
My vote is Lazy and Regressive and Idiotic and Terrible. Usually give a show at least a couple/3 views before making up my mind but couldn't even sit through the whole show. Not my cup of tea but New Normal does what they are trying to do MUCH better.
Reply
Flag
Totally agree, it's awful.



And I have no idea who Clay Aiken is? Is 28 too young to know who that is?
Reply
Flag
Oh god. I didn't like it either. But but Sophia Bush! There can't be world where she is on a bad show and I don't watch her every week. If it's 20 minutes of horrible jokes I have to sit through to see that bundle of joy light up my day then I'll take it.
Reply
Flag
I completely agree with every word you have written here. "Partners" is a stinking, dreadful, mess. I cannot imagine how it ever got on the air. The casting is not good, and the writing is worse. I am sorry for the damage it does to the memory of "Will & Grace." These writers should have taken a cue from the "Friends" writers and moved on to other formats. Trying to repeat yourself after a huge hit is a form of hubris.
Reply
Flag
After watching this and the even worst Ben and Kate I am definitely giving The New Normal a second chance. I can't say I hate this show, but it just didn't make me laugh (maybe smiled once). Is just me or this years new shows seem to be the worst in years? Maybe I have a goldfish memory and therefore I write this every year, but seriously I don't think its been this bad before!!!
Reply
Flag
Bravo, well said Price.
Reply
Flag
I really liked it, in much of the same way I miss Gilmore Girls and like Bunheads. It makes me want Will and Grace. It made me laugh, and I like the people..so gonna catch the next one.
Reply
Flag
""""(Clay Aiken has an older FEMALE fan base, you out-of-touch, aging homosexual millionaires!) """



You're the one out of touch. So many out of touch writers have insiiosted his fan base is only older women that it is reinforced erroneously by repetition. The gay men who wrote the showe know better than you whether gay men enjoy Clay Aiken.
Reply
Flag
why do they "gay men who wrote the show" know better?
Reply
Flag
GROAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reply
Flag
I also liked Sophia Bush. She's hot! The show sucked BIG TIME, however! I see it being one of the first to go. The character of Louis was one of the most annoying, unlikable characters I have ever seen on TV. Will not watch it again! I don't think Sophia Bush will have a problem getting another show.
Reply
Flag
I think he'll grow on us. When I watched Will & Grace for the first time, I couldn't tolerate Jack, but his ridiculousness eventually grew on me.
Reply
Flag
Do the reviewers pck their shows, or does TV.com assign them? Because anymore it seems like, "Hey, an NBC/Universal Blue Sky Dramedy, let's give it to Maryann," or, "hey, a show Tim will probably hate, let's give it to Tim," or in this case, "hey, a show about gay people, let's give it to Price!"
Reply
Flag
You forgot "hey, it's a really GOOD show, let's give it ti Lily")) #trueblood #revenge #ouat #scandal #causelilyisawesome
Reply
Flag
Not good . I'm done here
Reply
Flag
Wow ridiculously harsh. Definitely not the best new comedy of the year or decade but terrible horseshit? I think not. It's not much of a shock though since Price instinctively hates anything that portrays or mentions gays as anything but 100% "NBD" heterosexual Hollister models. The jokes were tired and dated and yeah when the funniest parts of your pilot are a blatant racial stereotype and the phrase "heart-on" then clearly your pilot needs re-tooling but what works about this show is its cast. Sophia Bush is dynamite as always and Michael Urie/David Krumholtz have great chemistry so even though I didn't love what I was watching, I liked the potential I saw in the show (much like the first time I watched Mike & Molly).
Reply
Flag
Remove the part about heart-on being funny and the jab against Price, and I agree completely. The show could stand some retooling, but David and Michael played really well off each other, and Sophia Bush can do no wrong.
Reply
Flag
It certainly has it's problems. For me though I'm such a fan of Sophia Bush I can put this on my tv for 30 minutes a week.
Reply
Flag
I wanted to give this a chance mainly because of Sophia Bush, but after about 15 min I quickly changed the channel. The entire mood of the show is so bland and cliche and the jokes would have been funny about 6 or 7 years ago.
Reply
Flag
When I was putting together my pvr schedule, it was an after thought, but it I watched it anyway (particularly for the cast).



It was ok, I laughed ( and at the end of the day, that's wat a comedy is supposed to do). Brandon Routh was def the weak link tho
Reply
Flag
COMPLETELY AGREE! He's actually quite awful. He's never been a good actor but WOW comedy isn't his strong suit!
Reply
Flag
It makes me sad that CBS cancels shows like The Class, Mad Love, and Rob in order to put on shows like Partners.



Honestly I tuned in for David Krumholtz and I find it hard to believe that after Numbers and his brief stint on The Newsroom, that he would actually do a show like this. He seems to be an intelligent actor and did not jive with this show at all.
Reply
Flag
You can't possibly expect us to take your comment seriously after listing "Rob" as a show that was unjustly canceled...
Reply
Flag
I agree that Rob was unjustly cancelled...a just cancellation would've been about 7 episodes sooner.
Reply
Flag
Did it get canceled after 7 episodes?
Reply
Flag
8, but I always believe in giving a pilot a chance, even if it is Rob Schneider.
Flag
Snore. Euw. Barf.



I mostly tuned in for the cast... they couldn't make this any good.
Reply
Flag
i'd rather whatch "whitney"...that's all i can say
Reply
Flag
That's pretty bad, but I agree!
Reply
Flag
That really says it all right!
Reply
Flag
It's weird - I love Michael Urie, Sophia Bush, and David Krumholtz, but put them together and it equals utter rubbish. They're not helped at all by the writing, of course. Partners wasn't funny at all, and felt completely outdated. So disappointing that a cast like that are lost in such tired, ill-conceived drivel.
Reply
Flag
I love Sophia Bush and MIchael Urie, but i don't think I can keep watching. I didn't hate it, but it was just kind of there, I had no interest in keeping on watching. I actually wish it was more like Will and Grace with the friendship between Michael Urie and Sophia Bush's characters, they had the best chemistry on the show.
Reply
Flag
Totally agree, but please - don't review this awful piece of stereotypical s...t EVERY week. It will be such a waste of your brilliant writing talent! Just dump it now and pick smth good to review.

#timhatewatchingalcatraz #everyf...ingepisode
Reply
Flag
Good point about the disconnect between the class of the people writing and those they portray. Partners has it for sure and I get the same feeling from The New Normal, that it's too closely mirroring this world of wealthy L.A. TV producers.
Reply
Flag
I think it would have done much better as a single-camera. My biggest problem with the show was how dated it felt. Still, it has some potential. It just needs to find itself.
Reply
Flag
I actually enjoyed the pilot, but unlike Price, I found the weakest point to be Brandon Routh's character. I'm not sure if it was Brandon's fault, or the writers', or a mixture of the two, but it seemed like he was just sort of... dropped in as an afterthought. His character served absolutely no purpose and seemed... out of place? I can only hope it gets better.



I didn't find the fight between Joe and Louis completely unbelievable. First of all, it NEEDED to be something relatively minor or else it either would not have been waved away by the end of the episode, or it would have set a precedence for Joe pretty much putting up with anything Louis came up with. The rest of the series, we'd be going "Dude, you didn't bat an eye when he seemingly torpedoed your relationship, but you're going to be mad about *that*?"



Besides, if your friend does something that gets you dumped, do you, in the heat of the moment (remember that the fight took place IMMEDIATELY after the call with Ali), pat him on the back and tell him you realize it was an innocent misunderstanding, or do you lash out tell him to GTFO? Honestly now? Joe would have been a little emotional. And given the gay and Jew jokes, why wouldn't you guys just assume Joe's playing the guilt card?



Moreover, I doubt that was their first falling out, or that they wouldn't have gotten back together within a week or two even if the Ali ship had indeed sailed. The thing I didn't get was Joe asking Wyatt how he puts up with Louis when Joe's been in a relationship with him a lot longer than Wyatt has. Wyatt just hasn't reached his breaking point yet. I never really watched Will & Grace all that much, but are you guys seriously telling me that Will, Grace, and Jack never had falling outs over anything remotely ridiculous?



I'm going to give the show a few more episodes. I thought the David and Michael played really well off each other, and I can never say anything negative about the gorgeous and talented Sophia Bush. Brandon... you're better than this. I hope.
More+
Reply
Flag
I don't find gay stereotype men funny. I find it annoying & at least on "Roseanne", Leon & Scott were portrayed with some dignity. Will & Grace was a live-action cartoon.
Reply
Flag
I was only able to watch for a few minutes and then I turned it off. I found it annoying, unfunny and overacted to make it funny or something...

I don't think it's going to get cancelled.
Reply
Flag
I'm really sad about this. I wanted to like this show for Michael Urie - and because I love a good Will & Grace rerun - but it's not to be. Here's to hoping that he manages to find another, BETTER job soon!
Reply
Flag
Great review, Price! I agree with you 110% and...I just finished watching the pilot and it seems like someone (gee I wonder who) decided to have Jack and Will be business partners. And have Will actually be engaged to Grace. And to make Jack's "wife" be an actual boyfriend who instead of being incredibly rich...be incredibly good looking. And just for more "laughs" - they brought in Rosario 2.0, but this time, in addition to a sassy attitude, she offers cleavage. I think this show will be canceled very soon. We've seen this all before, and done much better. Max and David should be ashamed of themselves and work harder at surrounding themselves with a few people who are not afraid to tell them the TRUTH.
Reply
Flag
Thanks for the review Price (and for those who commented) I had this on my DVR but now I don't!
Reply
Flag
I just saw the pilot, and it was embarrasing bad. Seriously, why anyone would invest in something that bad doesn't make any sense.

Just skip it people.

On other hand, "Go On" from Mathew Perry, even is not the greatest comedy of all time, is graceful, funny and touching. Really a winner between the pilots from 2012.
Reply
Flag
Completely agree about everything in your post. I love Go On, but Partners was just boring and unfunny. It really felt like it was written by middle-aged college interns who have been trapped in a cave since the '90s.
Reply
Flag
Gee, this looks wonderful. #sarcasm font
Reply
Flag
You know, I don't think you're really asking that question in the title sincerely.
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook