March 28, 2013



Whatever one may say about WHITNEY and whether it’s a sitcom that deserves to reach a Season 3, it’s clear that NBC and its producers (including star Whitney Cummings herself) heard the complaints about the show’s original version.  Season 2 wasn’t officially a reboot, but it featured an assortment of changes in style and tone.  Both Whitney and Whitney had their mouths washed out with proverbial soap, the non-stop sex jokes of Season 1 slowing to a trickle.  Whitney’s character, too, while still “edgy,” was considerably moderated to the point of being a typical TV neurotic.  Although Whitney and her common-law husband Alex (Chris D’Elia) were still the show’s main focus, friends Lily (Zoe Lister Jones), Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn) and Mark (Dan O’Brien) were built up, as Mark quit the police force to buy a bar where all the characters could hang out–with new regular RJ (Tone Bell) as bartender–Lily moved in with Roxanne, and Mark and Roxanne began a season-long will-they-or-won’t-they bantering flirtation.  There’s no question that a lot of effort went into soothing the show’s original nay-sayers.

The problem is what with all these changes, what remained wasn’t a particularly memorable TV series. Instead, Whitney 2.0 became just another retread of Friends, without the structural ingenuity of How I Met Your Mother, the looniness of Happy Endings or the deeply romantic soul of New Girl.  The chemistry between the cast members was no better than it was before, and the show, while relatively painless, was never more than mediocre.

The season finale, written by Cummings and Executive Story Editor Dan Levy, and directed by Andy Ackerman, tried to liven things up with a stunt cast appearance by Chelsea Handler as Whitney’s therapist, who naturally is nuttier than Whitney.  The story didn’t particularly go anywhere, and led to the bizarre notion that Whitney was now so happy and fulfilled by Alex and her work as a photographer that she was healthy and didn’t need therapy anymore.  Since every episode of the show, Seasons 1 and 2, has argued for her craziness, this seemed like quite a stretch–and not a funny one.  Meanwhile, in the B story, Roxanne and Mark finally had their kiss, staged so that it could parody and wallow in rom-com cliches at once.   Neither story roused much in the way of laughs, insight or emotion.

It’s likely that this will be the last we see of Whitney, since the ratings, even by NBC standards, have been abysmal, and two of the regular cast members have signed on for pilots (technically in “second position,” but since one of them is for NBC, presumably the network doesn’t think there’s much of a risk of his being unavailable).  It was never clear just why the network thought writer/comic Cummings was a likely sitcom star, but whether in her relatively uncensored form last season or in her more conventional guise this year, whatever was appealing about her never quite translated to network TV.  (Cummings continues, however, to collect her CBS royalty checks as co-creator of 2 Broke Girls, so no tears need be shed for her.)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."