Bob (Jon Cryer) and Owen (Tate Donovan) are architects and best buddies in San Francisco. The third corner of the triangle is Alicia (Maria Pitillo), whose engagement ring from Owen ends up in the wrong plate of oysters. But they quickly get to the heart of the matter: What about Bob?
It’s an understatement to say he horns in on the marriage plans. They squabble over dates. Bob nixes the anniversary of his dog’s death. Alicia wants to get married on Rhoda Morgenstern’s anniversary.
“Partners” has all the hallmarks of “Friends”: emotionally undeveloped twentysomethings who go in for lots of whispered sarcasm, drawn-out pronunciations, whining and nonsensical gesticulating. In this universe it’s humor when two characters speak the same words in unison. But they do have grown-up jobs and seem to be of above-average intelligence.
Burrows doesn’t allow for any pauses between the so-so lines. The rapid-fire pace is partly necessitated by the cut-and-dried storyline by Greenstein and Strauss.
It’s also tough to get a read on the characters, who at this point are mere ciphers. Bob, energetically portrayed by Cryer, has the closest thing to a distinct personality. Pitillo is mighty attractive, while Donovan’s Owen is bland (fashionable suspenders notwithstanding).
Catherine Lloyd Burns limns the funny role of their secretary. Though efficient, she constantly complains about her real and imagined woes: flesh-eating strep, seeing purple spots, enduring a fire in her apartment and a collapsing bathroom ceiling.
Shots in the title sequence suggest she’ll be called up when necessary to balance out the ensemble. But can she take the pressure off the threesome?
Production values are high. Owen has a killer apartment, and the office he and Bob share is spacious. Laugh track is particularly noticeable. Soulful title song isn’t headed to the top of the charts.