Whitney Cummings is one of the new flavors of the fall season, with a hand in producing two fledgling sitcoms — CBS’ “2 Broke Girls” and “Whitney,” an NBC sitcom in which she also stars. The eponymous show, however, gets off to a decidedly tepid start, built around the title character’s unmarried relationship to her longtime boyfriend, which is thrown for a mild loop by attending a wedding. With Cummings offering a quirky but not particularly compelling presence and scant support around the central couple, viewers who sample this post-“The Office” entry might experience their own fears of commitment.
Whitney and b.f. Alex (Chris D’Elia, whose deadpan delivery is the show’s strongest asset) seem contented enough in their unblessed cohabitation, even if he winces when she wears a hoodie sweatshirt to a wedding or tries to get him to carry her purse. “Not that whipped,” he mumbles.
After interacting with an obnoxiously cheery couple, however, Whitney begins to fret about their future. “I don’t think we’re having sex enough,” she says bluntly, proceeding to hatch misguided attempts to seduce him, including the always-popular sexy nurse outfit (if you have the gams for it). The scheme backfires, of course, in “Whitney, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!” fashion.
Other than Cummings’ slightly off-kilter view of relationships as writer and star, “Whitney” as a construct is more spindly than her legs — the gist being a couple of crazy kids who love each other but have chosen not to tie the knot. This might have seemed truly unorthodox back when “That Girl” was on, but it’s harder to see why anyone would make a fuss about it now.
Then again, Whitney and Alex provide the show’s anchor, surrounded by the requisite assortment of wacky friends, from skirt-chasing neighbor Mark (Dan O’Brien) to her mismatched pals, the chipper Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) and cynical divorcee Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn). Throw in “30 Rock’s” Maulik Pancholy as Lily’s boyfriend, and it’s about as stock a six-pack as a sitcom can uncork.
“Whitney” does possess one pragmatic advantage scheduling-wise, as the lone newcomer joining NBC’s Thursday comedy block: Despite critical accolades, that night hasn’t set the world on fire ratings-wise — the benefit being that expectations for the new kid shouldn’t be sky high.
That said, Cummings’ headlong vault into primetime has its best chance of sticking the landing via the show in which she doesn’t star. Because while she and D’Elia aren’t bad company, there’s just no compelling reason to throw bouquets at “Whitney.”