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TV Review: Whitney – “Something Black, Something Blue”

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NBC’s Whitney brings its season (and, likely, the series) to an end with “Something Black, Something Blue.” Whitney (Whitney Cummings) and Alex (Chris D’Elia) decide to go to City Hall to get married. But from an expired ID, to a broken finger, to being handed the paperwork for a divorce, things just keep going wrong. In the end, they decide that being together is enough, and they don’t need a legally recognized union.

Perhaps due to a mediocre start, Whitney never took off with viewers. That’s a shame, because it has become a pretty decent sitcom, and lots of shows take a few episodes to find their footing. Right from the beginning, there has been a special chemistry evident between Cummings and D’Elia, and the more the series has allowed that to flourish, the better it has gotten. As someone who watched every single episode, sticking with it from beginning to end, it is pretty darn enjoyable, overall, and it will be sad to see it go. If it goes. Which is likely. But there’s still a (very small) chance…

As mentioned above, the heart of this sitcom is the relationship between Whitney and Alex. What they have isn’t traditional, but in the modern age, it isn’t completely unusual, either. The two have pledged to be together long-term, and they don’t need marriage to do it. They are characters people can relate to, and laugh with, rather than at.

Funnily enough, they are not opposed to marriage. Whitney is, at first, because of her upbringing and issues. But by showcasing how much she trusts Alex in “Something Black, Something Blue,” the series is able to demonstrate her lasting commitment, even without a ring. She is willing to get married if that’s what he wants, but when it proves to be too much trouble, he doesn’t want it anymore. This is fitting for the characters, if slightly disappointing for those wanting to see them take that plunge. Though, admittedly, the proposal should have been saved for a couple of seasons, and probably only happened because of the sense that the end was near.

The weaknesses of Whitney lie in the other characters. Had the show stuck to just the central couple, it may have proved more popular. Instead, likely to keep with an accepted formula, four other people are shoved into the stories. It’s not that the actors are bad, but they don’t quite fit the way that they are inserted.

Early on, none of them are interesting. By the middle of the season, each becomes better defined, and starts landing consistent laughs. By “Something Black, Something, Blue,” though, they land somewhere in between the high and the low points.

The issue is that once the writers figure out what to do with the other four, and capture them wonderfully, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for situation comedy, based on who these people are. They are developed in a kind of narrow way. So forcing Neal (Maulik Pancholy) to suddenly be gay, and then to have Lily (Zoe Lister Jones) enjoy a kiss with Mark (Dan O’Brien), who is interested in Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn), seems desperate and gimmicky. It gets them out of the box that they are written into, but not in a way that feels natural. Had Neal and Lily taken their walk down the aisle, perhaps they would have been boring, but at least they would have stayed true to the characters presented.

That being said, season two could still be good. Perhaps Lily and Mark might work as a couple, if they are given a chance. Neal could become a fun gay character, once the awkwardness of his out-of-nowhere coming out wears off. Roxanne is actually fine the way she is now. And, of course, more tales of Whitney and Alex will always be welcome.

The only bright spot to a cancellation, and I do mean only, is if Pancholy returns to 30 Rock, where he has been missed.

Whitney airs (aired?) on NBC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Soph

    Whitney will make it to season 2 no doubt about it.

  • http://jeromewetzeltv.blogspot.com/ Jerome Wetzel

    I wish I shared your optimism. Sadly, it’s considered a long shot for renewal.