Contrarian Corner: 'Whitney' is better than '2 Broke Girls.' You heard me.

whitney

Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC; Sonja Flemming/CBS

Before this year’s fall TV season began, pretty much every critic and member of the TV-watching public assumed that 2 Broke Girls would be the better of the two Whitney Cummings-created shows. 2 Broke Girls boasted an enviable spot on CBS’ Monday comedy lineup, Kat Dennings’ indie star power, and Michael Patrick King’s Sex and the City sheen; the eponymous Whitney had a comedian with unproven acting chops and questionable likability as its lead, an annoying (and ubiquitous) ad campaign, and terrible early buzz.

Then when the pilots aired, things happened as predicted: 2 Broke Girls instantly broke out as the new season’s network golden child both in terms of ratings and reviews, whereas Whitney was quickly dubbed one of the most laughable, least funny sitcoms of the year. The series debut was pretty terrible — the jokes would have seemed tired in the ’90s, and the live studio laughter was especially jarring after years of absence on NBC. After that poor initial showing, I vowed to give the show one more episode. I did… and the second episode, which centered on Whitney and her long-time beau Alex’s (Chris D’Elia) attempt to re-create a romantic first date (their real first date ended unromantically with sex), crashed and burned in an even worse way. After those two episodes, I gave up.

Then, one weekend when I was bedridden and nauseous, I needed to distract myself from my misery with something bright and noisy that I didn’t need or want to pay too much attention to. So what did I choose? The third episode of Whitney on Hulu! Maybe it was delirium from food poisoning, but I actually found it pretty enjoyable. The storyline once again brought nothing new to the table (guys LOVE it when women give them the silent treatment!), but it was funny enough to bring me back for a fourth and fifth episode. Now, I actually think Whitney is starting to find its footing. Whitney is sort of reminding me of Cougar Town two years ago — that show seemed utterly indefensible before it premiered, got off to a rough start, but somehow struck a weirdly likable tone.

Cummings, with her flailing limbs and blaring alto voice isn’t the strongest actor, but she has plenty of support from the supporting cast to pick up the slack. The ensemble isn’t as bright and sparkly as that of Friends, How I Met Your Mother, or Happy Endings. They’re a somewhat slouchier, less hip bunch who are a little world-weary and no doubt do some sad drinking every now and then; they’re starting to feel more like real rather than idealized people, at least on sitcom standards. D’Elia and Rhea Seehorn, playing divorcee Roxy, are the funniest contributors to the show. And even though the situations are predictable, the jokes are getting better (“We’re fighting about the way we’re fighting and then we get stuck in fighting infinity … it’s like Inception“). It’s worth noting that the first two episodes were penned by Cummings, whereas the episodes since have been written by other writing staff.

While Whitney seems to be getting better, 2 Broke Girls has been totally stagnant. Some of the annoying bits that were forgivable in the first few episodes still haven’t been fixed. This show is still tone-deaf in some of the same ways that the Sex and the City movies were: The writers of Broke Girls seem to treat Brooklyn like some crime and crack fantasia, much in the way that avowed Manhattanite Samantha Jones did, even though this show’s supposed to be hipper than that; and although the cultural insensitivity was more flagrant in Sex and the City 2, the portrayal of Han “Bryce” Lee is getting a bit too Long Duk Dong. I was cool with the Han jokes at first, but it’s gotten out of hand.

Perhaps the biggest problem: Unlike Whitney, 2 Broke Girls has no supporting cast to speak of. I had high hopes for Earl (Garrett Morris), the wisecracking diner maitre d’, but his one-liners — or should I say three-liners — are so forced and over-written. Oleg, Peach, and Han “Bryce” Lee should pretty much get killed off by this point. Nick Zano can stay — but Jennifer Coolidge, this show needs you badly!

Now, I love Kat Dennings, and I so wanted to like her as Max, but she comes across less like a waitress who hates her job than an actress who’s bored by her show. Her line delivery often lands flat, and does Max really need to be quite as sarcastic as she is? After 30 minutes with her, I need a break — we get it, she’s a bitch and proud of it. I never would have expected Beth Behrs as Caroline to steal so many scenes from Dennings.

So, fellow contrarians, do you think Whitney has surpassed 2 Broke Girls, or has Whitney always been beyond salvation?

Follow Stephan on Twitter.

Read more:
’2 Broke Girls’ picked up for full season
‘Whitney’ gets full season order

Comments (95 total) Add your comment
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  • Summer

    Beth Behrs is amazing on 2BG. She’s really the only reason I’m still even tuning in. Kat Dennings has really just disappointed me in this.

    • Carly

      Same here. Kat has awful comedic timing.

      • Templar

        They are both crap piles, why debate which one stinks worse?

    • Ken

      Pretty spot-on, Mr. Lee, with your overall analysis. I would simply add, the first couple of “Whitney” shows (which Whitney wrote) heavily relied on set-ups from her stand-up act, which is not unlike how “Seinfeld” began. “Seinfeld” really picked up once a writing staff was able to take real situations (“the contest”, Jerry & Larry’s attempts to get a pilot on NBC, etc.) and polish them into well-written 22 minute episodes.

      I am very disappointed with Kat Dennings right now. She is such an attractive person and personality, but after each episode’s relentless barrage of sarcasm, she converts into a person that I would never want to ask out on a second date. Beth Behrs is great, but they need to get rid of Han & the horse, make more use of Garrett Morris, and maybe redirect Oleg & Peach into less stereotypical usage.

      • Handsome Smitty

        And Seinfeld can’t act at all, period, and that show came out all right, subtly thumbing its nose at its viewer until the finale where it openly thumbed its nose at us.

    • Mel #2

      EW you have no taste, Footloose, Twlight, Ryan Gosling, Darren Criss and Glee…now Whitney…..crap, crap, and more Crap!

      • The Bitches

        Ryan Gosling is crap? I would disagree; he’s one of the best actors of the current generation, along with Joseph Gordon-Levitt

      • Lisa

        What premise to you have that Darren Criss and Ryan Gosling are crap?

        Ryan Gosling is more than that dude from The Notebook and has been exploring different sides of himself from Lars and the Real Girl to Drive.

        Darren Criss has an amazing voice. Are you a better singer than him or an actor?

    • tvtot

      I’m ok on 2 Broke Girls. I think it may develop just the way Whitney is developing into a really good show. I think the supporting cast is working for the Whitney show and I fell in love with those characters. I tend to focus on what is good rather than the negative. It keeps me cancer free.

  • Mike K

    I like both shows, I think 2 Broke Girls is stronger in every way but Whitney isn’t bad at all. I’ll continue to watch both and enjoy both. I don’t mind the little things that are wrong with each show, I just focus on being entertained and both shows do just that.

    • Mike K.

      Also I have down’s syndrome, so I think Larry the Cable Guy and Dane Cook are hilarious too. And geocities commercials.

  • Jackson

    Is there really a winner here? They are both awful shows.

    • pastafarian

      Getting punched in the stomach is better than getting punched in the face. You heard me.

    • tvtot

      I love both shows.
      See….not everyone thinks that your short sharp comments have value. If you have such hate for these shows then why are you even bothering to spend your time to be mean. I’m a fan…what are you again?

  • Kelly

    Couldn’t find the remote/too lazy to look and watched Whitney again last night. It was just as terrible as the pilot. But I agree about 2 Broke Girls. I never loved it but I’m liking it less each week for the same reasons as Stephan.

    • Diane

      I watch HIMYM on Monday’s and then Turn off the tv. I wanted to like Broke Girls but it’s just grating

  • Janelle

    They both suck.

  • CG

    I’ve watched 3 episodes of 2BG. Each one had a rape “joke”. Who thinks rape is funny? Kat is insufferable. I won’t be watching again.

    • Aaron

      Agreed. Sucks hard.

    • caryn c

      Yeah, after the rape joke on Monday, I stopped watching, erased the show and probably won’t watch again.

      • Cy

        Completely agree. Kat plays a horrible person, who makes horrible remarks. Her delivery sucks. Re: Whitney–I really like the supporting cast. They’re actually making the effort.

    • romius t

      I think rape jokes are HILARIOUS!!!

  • dropper

    With the edition of Jennifer Coolidge, it seems like they are making positive tweaks to 2BG’s. I do think they need to dump the diner, the supporting characters there suck and Max comes off as a really obnoxious waitress. I do agree that Beth Beers steals the show. Oh, and Whitney is terrible.

    • ChaCha

      Re Whitney’s laugh track (live audience my behind), when you said “and the live studio laughter was especially jarring,” you said it all for me. After watching three shows before hers that are funny without an obnoxious laugh track, to hear one during Whitney is so jarring that I’m outta there in less than five minutes. I’ve tried to watch the show, but the “live audience” laugh track destroys it.

  • chgosaint

    If you really want crap tv, worse the 2bg or Whitney, watch New Girl. EW has forced how incredible that pile of doody is down our throats for months. It is awful.

  • john

    Whitney is awful

    • tvtot

      Whitney works for me but then again I’m a fan. I love the supporting cast and find them to be totally engaging and make the show for me. Whitney has always been funny so no surprise there.

  • kse

    I completely agree about the studio laughter on Whitney. The show just doesn’t fit into the Thursday line-up. It’s like sitting in a dimly-lit room of quality television and having the lights go full bright. It’s a little jarring!

  • john

    whitney is horrible and Whitney will be cancelled and she will end up on 2 broke girls which is in a killer time slot

  • Jill

    I fully agree. I was really disappointed with the uneven delivery and pathetic supporting characters on 2BG–watched the first three eps, but it never made the season pass list. Beth Bers is funnier than I expected and I like Kat Dennings in principle, but the show reads like a series of punch lines strung together. Some of the zingers are funny, and Beth Bers is getting better all the time, but the writing in general is just bad.
    But I accidentally watched a couple of Whitney episodes, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t hate it. The supporting characters were better, the banter between Whitney and her boyfriend was actually funny, and I laughed out loud more than once. Whitney does have the Jerry Seinfeld problem of seeming mildly amused at her own jokes, but it seems organic here. Admittedly, the situations are predictable and relationship-y, which I normally hate (ooooh, we’re in a dry spell, oooh, I ‘m going to seduce my boyfriend now), but if they can move beyond the clichéd boyfriend-girlfriend stuff it might be a decent show. And if Whitney can avoid pointing at her crotch as a punch line.

  • James Griffin

    You’re mistaken, ’2 Broke Girls’ is far superior and it stars two really gorgeous and very talented actresses. In particular, the beautiful, voluptuous and sexy Kat Dennings is amazing. That woman is incredible. It’s an exceptional performance by her, just wonderful.

    • Aaron

      Ew. You’re gross. Go back to your pedophiles anonymous meetings. Or put your straight-jacket back on.

      • @Aaron

        There was nothing gross pedophilia like in what James said. To me it read as him appreciating beautiful women.

  • Amy

    2 Broke Girls continues to disappoint me. Each week I keep watching hoping it will live up to its potential and it doesn’t. They really need to get rid of Peach and the horse (so ridiculous, yet I don’t think they are trying to be that campy with the rest of the show). You are right – a strong supporting cast would really help out a lot.

  • Kris

    Agreed. Whitney took three episodes to grow on me and now I like it.

    Unfortunately I know a lot of people who were personally affected by ponzi schemes. I find it hard to enjoy a show where a spoiled brat spawn of a mega schemer has to rebuild. Perhaps the reason it’s not doing well is because others can’t see past that either. Just a thought.

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