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Is NBC’s Whitney the modern-day Mad About You? – Monthly Musings

I know it's cool to hate 'Whitney,' but it has a lot of good spots. In fact, I think ‘Whitney’ is the next 'Mad About You.' How about you?

Yeah. I like Whitney. So sue me. Why? Because it isn’t the standard one-note couple sitcom. In fact, it reminds me a lot of a modern-day Mad About You. Yeah, that’s right. Mad About You.

Last year, after Cougar Town and Mike and Molly’s success, NBC, FOX, and CBS all released their own couples knock-off comedies, including Traffic Light (FOX), Mad Love (CBS), and Perfect Couples (NBC). Although each show featured star power (Mad Love highlighted Jason BiggsSarah Chalke, Tyler Labine and Judy Greer while Traffic Light featured established actors like David DenmanLiza Lapira and Kris Marshall), they didn’t contain heart.

When I watched Whitney’s pilot, I hated it. It featured broad comedy directed towards one-note jokes and the characters came across as one-dimensional. Plus, the commercials played up Whitney Cummings’ sexual factor as opposed to her humor or the show’s focus. Despite that, I watched the show EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Why? Because unlike Traffic Light and Perfect Couples, well written shows with subtle acting and smart humor, it had heart.

In fact Whitney’s premise reminded me of Mad About You (NBC, 1992-1999). Before you self-implode, let me continue. Mad About You surrounded a smart, snarky couple living in Manhattan while highlighting their mutual dedication to each other. That’s essentially Whitney, a show about a slacker photographer and her .com wealthy boyfriend who live in a Manhattan apartment. Like Mad About You, the show emphasizes the lead couple’s mutual dedication to each other. Of course, to modernize it, Cummings made Whitney a self-absorbed female commitment-phobe, who can’t comprehend her three-year relationship with her long-term, live-in boyfriend.

Yet, even at its worst, the relationship reminds me of Mad About You at its best. Unlike Traffic Light, Mad Love or Perfect Couples, I actually BOUGHT the commitment between the lead couple. Although I’m a singleton who loves Bridget Jones (the novel), I’m starting to hate shows surrounding perpetually single people in their 30s who deliberately refuse to commit. If a gorgeous, well-adjusted guy presents himself, I’m settling down, unlike in Private Practice or similar shows where people my age maintain a rotating bedroom. So, I welcomed Whitney’s entrance.

Sure, Whitney’s heavy on hipster snark, but unlike the aforementioned couple shows, its concerns ring true. And, it’s their certainty of their feelings for each other that reminds of Mad About You. After an episode surrounding Alex’s ongoing fight with his best friend, Mark, he finally confesses that Whitney’s his true best friend. After a show surrounding Whitney’s marital induced insomnia, Whitney admits she could see herself with Alex. In fact, on screen Whitney and Alex compliment each other so well (physically and through natural body language) I actually googled to see if Whitney Cummings and Chris D’Elia were a real life couple.

However, Whitney doesn’t just focus on the couple, it focuses on the friends. In that sense, Whitney also reminds me of Community. Like the characters in Community’s pilot, Whitney’s supporting characters initially seemed like stock, one-dimensional stereotypes including the lovey-dovey couple, Lily and Neal (Maulik Pancholy, formerly Jack’s 30 Rock  assistant); the alcoholic ball-busting, singleton, Roxanne; and the stereotypical sexist pig, Mark.

So, as the show progresses, so do the plotlines and characters. Like Dan Harmon, Cummings eventually realized that muting her voice or trying to fit it into an established norm didn’t do the show any favors. Now, she’s incorporating more feminist humor while making the characters more two-dimensional (they’re not quite 3D, yet). “Mad Women” mocked a society that forces women to lose 30 pounds, yet regain it through fake hair, fake breasts and a fake ass. In my 20s, I learned that hair extensions, gloss, deep v-necks, and heels easily achieved dates. But, in my 30s, I’ve basically taken an eff-you perspective to anyone who expects that. I loved when Whitney dressed up in glue-in hair tracks (that fell out), lip-plumping lip gloss (which really does sting), and ass cutlets for Alex, forcing him to realize the horror of undressing a made-up woman.

Character-wise, Neal and Alex are no longer the perfect cardboard men. We covertly see hints of Alex’s sexism by calling guys physically faster than girls and requesting Whitney dress up in girly clothes. Neal is no longer the perfect Ken doll boyfriend whose life surrounds his girlfriend. Also, the show no longer plays to one-dimensional slutty girl humor as we increasingly see Whitney display more maturity than Alex when pointing out his relationship flaws (a password-protected phone is a no-no). The “playa” Mark reveals he isn’t a player and is always there for his friends. Although Roxanne’s still the same, Lily’s slowly getting her own personality.

So, yeah, I like Whitney. Yeah, it reminds me of Mad About You through the relationship and Community through its growth. Yeah, I snark about it, but I still hope it returns next year. We need more all-female shows with a feminist bent. And, I hate when critics are harsher on female-led shows. So, Whitney, keep on improving, girl. I’m behind you and I hope NBC is too.

Photo Credit: NBC

Categories: | Columns | General | Monthly Musings | TV Shows |

13 Responses to “Is NBC’s Whitney the modern-day Mad About You? – Monthly Musings”

March 5, 2012 at 12:17 PM

. . . . .

Great! I’m up to speed … because I’ve been toying with the idea of giving this show an at-least-a-single-viewing run for it’s money, now that I am DVR capable.

March 5, 2012 at 3:41 PM

It’s cool to hate Whitney? I didn’t know.

March 5, 2012 at 3:43 PM

I didn’t know it was cool, nor do I care that it’s cool. All I know is that it’s bad.

March 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Whitney is actually set in Chicago, but I see the correlation. I like the show a lot. I think the characterization of Whitney, Alex, Roxanne, and Mark are great. Lily and Neal drive me nuts, but alas. Can’t have it all in the first season of a show.

March 6, 2012 at 11:51 AM

I do not know about Mad About You but Whitney is awesome!!!!!!

March 6, 2012 at 3:48 PM

As a Community fan, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to hate Whitney. Chelsea Handler’s kind of a given

March 6, 2012 at 8:40 PM

I’m not sure who decided that it’s cool to hate Whitney, but it’s frustrating how that caught on.

I LOVE Whitney, for all the reasons in this article and more!! Unfortunately there’s a good chance it won’t be renewed because people would prefer to watch mindless shows with dull characters and bad humour. That’d be a shame!

March 7, 2012 at 1:18 AM

I love Whitney! I thought it was good from the beginning, but it actually has improved a great deal since the beginning of the new year. I’m truly hoping for a second season, you can tell these actors are working their butts off to make this a good show. <3

March 7, 2012 at 6:10 AM

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Whitney is developing into a great comedy right before our eyes. It got off to a rough start like everybody already knows but I’ve been impressed at how much the show has grown ever since the show moved to Wednesdays. I’ve gotten a few of my friends to watch it and they love it now.

I like the Mad About You reference as this does remind me of that great show but I think Whitney is already better in just its first season and that’s saying something because Mad About You was a staple on NBC back in the 90s. This show reminds me of Friends so much also since there’s six of them but the only difference is the prime focus is on Whitney and Alex’s relationship.

I think the show will definitely make it to season two my question will be rather or not NBC puts it in the same block as Roseanne’s big new comedy next season Downwardly Mobile? That’ll give Whitney a chance to be more discovered and become a hit in a couple of years.

March 8, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Whitney is my fav new show. Love it so much that I watch it the next morning again on dvr. It’s really a funny show and the peeps on it are really funny.

March 8, 2012 at 12:42 PM

I love the show because it’s a great example of how crazy relationships really can be and how crazy all people think. and…it’s funny and that is the only reason to watch any sitcom. I relate to these people.

March 16, 2012 at 12:35 AM

Love it. Always have. Always will.

March 17, 2012 at 6:39 AM

This is a very relatable sitcom with very relatable characters. This is like the pure definition of a sitcom.

NBC better renew it too!

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