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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick; directed by James Burrows; TRT: 18:24)
The network's description: "PARTNERS is a comedy based on the lives of creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, about two life-long best friends and business partners whose "bromance" is tested when one of them is engaged to be married. Joe (David Krumholtz) is an accomplished architect who leads with his head and not his heart, especially in his love life. That's in stark contrast to his gay co-worker, Louis (Michael Urie), who is spontaneous, emotional and prone to exaggeration. Both have found joy in their love lives: Joe is newly engaged to Ali (Sophia Bush), a beautiful and sophisticated jewelry designer, while Louis is dating Wyatt (Brandon Routh), a vegan nurse who Louis insists is just a promotion away from becoming a doctor. As news of Joe's engagement settles, time will tell if their business and personal bond can adapt to the addition of two other important relationships. Emmy Award winners David Kohan and Max Mutchnick are executive producers for Warner Bros. Television. Emmy Award winner James Burrows directed the pilot."
What did they leave out? This is Kohan and Mutchnick's third stab at this premise, the others being for ABC in 2008 (with Alan Tudyk and Josh Cooke as the leads) and CBS in 2007 (with Brian Austin Green and Jay Mohr as said duo). As for the current incarnation, Elizabeth Regen was originally cast as the guys' assistant, a role that ultimately went to Tracy Vilar. Two other characters, to be played by Lucy Davis (Renata) and Molly Shannon (Cassandra), were ultimately written out.
The plot in a nutshell: Architects Joe (David Krumholtz) and Louis (Michael Urie) have been best friends for virtually their entire lives. In that time they've established that Joe is the one who follows his head, not his heart; while Louis is all heart, with little thought. (Joe: "You only go with your gut. That's why you have a tattoo of Clay Aiken on your ass.") Said dispositions come into play after Joe announces to Louis that he's considering breaking up with his girlfriend Ali (Sophia Bush). She's probably the best thing to ever happen to him - and his schmeckle - however a drunken confession that she wants to be married and have kids as soon as possible has gotten him skittish.
Louis helps him rationalize that it's the right choice but when the time comes to do it, Joe finds himself proposing instead. This of course - being a sitcom - blows up after Louis lets it slip he was supposed to break up with her, a development Joe sees as the last straw in their friendship. Louis then scrambles to clean up his mess, not to mention deal with his own relationship foibles - boyfriend Wyatt (Brandon Routh) is offended by Louis constantly referring to him as a doctor when he's actually a nurse. Ultimately, well... I'm sure you can fill in the gaps from here.
What works: It's - for better or worse - exactly the show you're expecting from these auspices. Joe and Louis bicker and quip to the beats of (at times undeserved) canned laughter, usually at the expense of the other. (Louis: "My boyfriend is a gorgeous Jewish doctor." Joe: "He's a nurse Louis. Wyatt is Presbyterian and a nurse." Louis: "They're going to promote him to Jewish doctor any day now.") It helps that Krumholtz and Urie are extremely likeable, as their natural charms pave over the rough outlines that are their characters. Routh's Wyatt is likewise amusingly dim ("I'm in the cardiac wing today. [Points to his scrubs.] That's why I've got a heart on. I can give you one if you want.") while Bush is as supernaturally adorable as ever.
What doesn't: It's - for better or worse - exactly the show you're expecting from these auspices. Those tired of the usual sitcom tropes won't find much solace here, a development not helped by the endlessly dated references (West Side Story, Clay Aiken, the phrase "raise the roof," etc.) and shameless callbacks to already weak bits. More problematic is how the show constantly vocalizes the characters' dynamics rather than lets us see them at play. I get some underlining is required in a pilot but there's no need to break out the bullhorn to tell us things that should be inherent about the show. It gives an unnecessarily clunky attitude to what should be a breezy show.
The bottom line: Believe it or not, considering how weak the freshman comedy class is, "Partners" is pretty good by comparison.