Here’s the story: Two television producers haven’t had a hit in a while. They sit around, wracking their brain for a new show. Then one of them jumps up and says, “I’ve got it! Remember that sitcom we thought was so funny 20 years ago? The one that had a Nielsen rating so low that mathematicians had to invent a new negative number? Let’s remake it! Because nobody watched it at all, we can keep not just the premise but the name! And we’ll even get the same guy to direct it!”
This is not the plot of CBS’ (sort of) new sitcom Partners. But it may be the story of how the series came to be. Back in 1995, Fox — then a comparatively new network still struggling for ratings traction — aired a sitcom called Partners about two young architects whose lifelong friendship is threatened when one decides to get married. The pilot, directed by TV veteran James Burrows, focused on comic complications stemming from the marriage proposal.
The CBS show that debuts tonight is about, hmmm, two young architects whose lifelong friendship is threatened when one decides to get married. Pilot: directed by James Burrows. Plot: comic complication stemming from the marriage proposal.
Just to make the story a little more lurid, the 1995 Partners was created by a fellow named Jeff Greenstein. A few years later he would work on the sitcom Will & Grace, where his bosses were David Kohan and Max Mutchnick — who, in an amazing coincidence, are the creators of the 2012 Partners.
“Coincidence,” by the way, is the word Kohan and Mutchnick use. Greenstein has a different one. “I guess it’s OK to rip off the title, premise, pilot story, characters’ jobs and pilot director from a colleague’s series and claim it as your own,” he posted on Facebook when CBS announced the new Partners. “Have fun!”
By now, Astute Reader, you are probably thinking, “Wow, a review that opens with 350 words about this history of a show must mean there’s nothing very interesting to say about the show itself!” And that’s why we call you Astute, Reader. Partners (this one; to be honest, I barely remember the first one at all, except that it starred Jon Cryer and Tate Donovan ) is witless, predictable and much closer to creepy than funny.
In the single significant difference from the earlier show, Kohan and Mutchnick have made one of the architect buddies Joe (David Krumholtz, Numb3rs) gay. Or, to be more precise, Gay Twit Stereotype 1A: shallow, acquisitive, vain and manipulative. His attempts to break up the romance between his pal Louis (Michael Urie, Ugly Betty) and jewelry designer Ali (Sophia Bush, One Tree Hill) reek of social pathology.
For that matter, so does the entire relationship between Joe and Louis. At one point, Ali is ready to give up on her fiancé. “This is the guy,” she says to Joe, “who called you giggling from my bathroom after we had sex for the first time.” Add a couple of ice-pick murders and we’re in Brian De Palma territory.