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So I decided to give Partners a second chance – the pilot was a creaky throwback to early 90s Must-See-TV. The second episode “Chicken & Stuffing” continues to establish the relationships between the four characters – Joe and Lewis, two gay best friends, and their respective partners Ali and Wyatt.
While not a complete turn around, the second episode does improve a bit on this admittedly stale premise. The plot revolves around Lewis’ inability to mind his own business when it comes to Joe’s life; Joe and Ali are having trouble in the bedroom, and Lewis offers to talk to her – Joe explicitly asks his best friend not to talk to his fiancée. Lewis promises. And of course we all know where this is going…
Ali, meanwhile is preoccupied with running a jewelry store, and has hired an assistant, who’s also her cousin. And she’s very stupid. And the laugh track roars with mirth as she bumbles from one mistake to another – like rudely telling a customer to leave when Ali asks her to “wrap up” the sale, or gift wrapping a pair of earings in a box big enough for a blender. The sight gags are cute, but really they’re worth a simple chuckle.
So, of course Lewis breaks his promise and speaks to Ali – she’s suitably offended, but listens to his advice anyways. And the next day, Joe reports that the two had the best sex ever: instead of thanking Lewis, though he yells at him for meddling (thankfully, the writers restrained themselves from throwing around the word yenta, which I was waiting for). Why would he yell at his friend, instead of simply saying “thank you”? Because that wouldn’t move this tepid plot along.
While Lewis is orchestrating the perfect engagement with his two best friends, his own personal life is suffering because of his self-absorption. It’s Wyatt’s fifth anniversary of being sober. Kudos to the writers for trying to make the mannequin-like Wyatt more interesting by giving him a sad back story, but that doesn’t really help that Wyatt’s pretty much a dud, and needs to be given the heave-ho.
Joe and Wyatt are supposed to work out together, except Joe’s not motivated enough. He learns from Wyatt that Lewis hasn’t mentioned the fifth anniversary, and offers to remind his friend of the important date. Wyatt gratefully refuses, insisting that Lewis should know – and Wyatt’s right Lewis should know. The weak cliffhanger is, will Lewis remember?
As if this wasn’t boring enough, Joe has another wistful complaint of Ali – that she doesn’t cook. So presto! Lewis turns up at Ali’s store with a chicken and a recipe for zesty lemon chicken (which would be great right now). Despite the weird retrograde idea that the onus is on the woman to cook, even when both partners are working, Ali concedes and cooks the chicken. Again, Joe gets what he wants, but is he happy? You guessed it, he’s not – he and Lewis have a loud fight, and Lewis storms off. We know this is a sitcom fight and not a serious fight, because Lewis, when yelling, is using his cartoony “I’m mad” voice. He points out that instead of being mad, Joe should be happy – he also believes their relationship is one-sided as he’s doing everything to bail Joe out, and Joe has yet to reciprocate…We all know what’s coming next, right? If not, then you’re pretty dim…
Lewis comes home, seriously pissed, and Wyatt’s waiting for him in the kitchen with a beautiful cake. He thinks it’s from Lewis – but really, it’s from Joe, pretending it’s from Lewis. Betcha didn’t see that one comin’. Lewis is truly touched, and is moved by Joe’s gesture – so much so, that it looks like he’s fixated on this kind gesture. I do have to admit that this bit of comic acting by Urie in this scene is pretty awesome – again, self-absorbed, he completely shuts out Wyatt, as he sits, face in hand, googly-eyed for the lovely card that Joe had written. For Wyatt. As if he were Lewis.
Unfortunately, five minutes of inspired acting by Urie doesn’t hide the fact that this show’s pretty much a dud. But all hope is not lost. Both The Office and Parks and Recreation started out pretty badly, too, but once they got retooled they were brilliant; is there a brilliant show here? Nope, but there could be a decent one, if it shook off this strange, time warp feeling of “been there, done that” and it shrugged off its self-conscious, but inflated sense of wit.