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TV Series Review

For decades, marriage has been a pretty standard trope in situation comedy. Shows ranging from The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy to The Cosby Show and Everybody Loves Raymond have featured couples navigating the relational perils and pitfalls of marriage, and in a way to make audiences chuckle, giggle and smile.

You don't see much marriage on television these days.  Last Man Standing on ABC excepted, most of today's newest comedies mine their humor from not being married:  Mike & Molly aren't married. New Girl? She's living with three single guys. Friends With Benefits? Yeah, the title's fairly self-explanatory, don't you think?

The latest sitcom to hop on the single-is-funny bandwagon is Whitney, one of two 2011 freshman shows from the mind of comedian Whitney Cummings (the other being 2 Broke Girls). But here's the oddity: It's a show about single people that really wants to be a show about married people.

Not that Whitney, the character, wants to get married. The whole program is built around the fact that she doesn't. She's positively terrified of the institution, in fact—liable to flee if she sees a stray veil hanging off a coatrack. She'd rather just live with her loving and supportive and committed boyfriend, Alex. They have their problems, of course. But they're determined to work through them as best they can, to see each other through the good times and bad, through sickness and health, till—

Well, Whitney can't get carried away on that train of thought. Who knows where it might lead. Never mind that she seems terribly preoccupied with testing Alex's commitment or trying to recharge their relationship every third episode or so. Of course, all this recharging—in some ways a symptom of the show's general preoccupation with sex—makes these proceedings ever more problematic. In the pilot episode, for example, Whitney visits a sex shop to spice up her love life. References to various intimate acts and body parts can be embarrassing and, in some episodes, unremitting. Language can be harsh, and religion sometimes takes a shot or two, too.

And yet, in the vast relational wasteland that is sitcom land these days, Whitney feels at times almost … earnest.

At one point, Whitney confesses to Alex that maybe someday—a long, long time from now—she wouldn't mind having kids: She's just always been reluctant because she "grew up with a lot of divorce, and it sucks, and I never want to put a kid through that."

"In order to get divorced, you need to get married," Alex says. "Does that mean you'd consider getting married?"


"To you I would," she says.

"Whit, you're like a person!" Alex exclaims.

"Shut up, no I'm not," Whitney says. And the moment is over. Lifetime commitment may be a great thing in real life. But it's murder on TV ratings in the 2010s.

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Episode Reviews

Whitney: 1212011



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Whitney Cummings as Whitney; Chris D'Elia as Alex Green; Zoe Lister Jones as Lily; Maulik Pancholy as Neal; Rhea Seehorn as Roxanne; Dan O'Brien as Mark






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Paul Asay

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