Feb 6, 2014

[TV] Partners: Season 1

It's pretty sad when a TV show isn't allowed to really complete a season before getting cancelled. Despite getting a season order for so many episodes, that in itself is not a guarantee against potential cancellation. And thus we've seen shows with several episodes in the can already but are unable to get broadcasting rights in their country of origin.

What makes it even weirder is when these shows do get to finish their runs, but in a completely different country. This was the case with Caprica as it eventually got to see a full series run in Canada. And this was the case again with Partners, as it did manage to finish up in countries like South Africa and India. The country selection felt totally random though.

I can't automatically state that this is a review in defense of the show - I too had rather mixed feelings about it. However I think that doesn't mean that one shouldn't allow a show to at least get through its first season before we come to a final decision. If that was always the case, then I probably would never have gotten into shows like Fringe given how I didn't quite get on board during the first few episodes. A lot of us viewers are willing to give a show a decent shot before we quit on it - I'm talking to you big time TV executives!

Synopsis: Partners was a US comedy series that aired from September to November 2012 on CBS but managed to get to air it's remaining episodes in other countries. The show was created by David Cohan and Max Mutchnick, better known for having created Will & Grace.

The show centers around two childhood friends - Joe Goodman (David Krumholtz) and Louis McManus (Michael Urie). They work as partners in an independent architectural firm and remain the best of friends despite their many, many differences. Things do come to a head when Joe decides to get engaged to his longtime girlfriend Ali (Sophia Bush) while Louis is working on his new relationship with the rather attractive nurse Wyatt (Brandon Routh).

When I try to analyze why the show got cancelled, I'm pretty sure things will come back to the cast of characters involved. There's a tricky balance that needs to be attained in US sitcoms between the familiar and the neurotic in order to draw audiences in. And while the individual characters in the show probably were relatively interesting enough to begin with, bringing them all together didn't quite result in the sort of strange and quirk situations that we've come to expect from such shows.

As characters, Joe and Louis aren't quite amazingly strong roles that are able to carry the show on their own. We're not quite sure what stereotypes or quirky character traits we're expected to emphasize. There were moments when Joe had a few Jewish jokes going on but that sort of felt flat. There may have been some potential when they tried to pick on Joe's somewhat metrosexual (read: borderline queer) tastes (e.g. his love for wine), but that came in pretty late in the run. Louis of course was the lead gay character, although I'm not sure that we ever really got to define him beyond that fact. It's a good and a bad thing - a character needs to have more interesting comedic qualities beyond being the funny gay guy after all.

The supporting cast was okay, but also not as powerful. Joe's girlfriend Ali really didn't have much of a character beyond being his girlfriend. There were a number of side characters in their respective places of work that could have been developed further in order to illustrate more of the social dynamics between them but that didn't really materialize into anything. And then you have Wyatt, who wasn't much of a character on his own (at least not until the DMV episode) and whose main source of entertainment value came from the many Superman jokes inserted into the show. I'm not complaining about the Superman references, mind you - they were the best part of his character. But again, he needed more than just that to stand on his own two feet.

The individual episodes had generally funny stories to tell but overall there was no real flow to things. The fact that the whole series begins with a reluctant engagement to Ali should have been something that we could have developed over the succeeding episodes. Instead it felt like it was something that was only picked up again towards the end of the run, which really was too late to make the most of it. When you start a show with a premise like that, you can't just forget about it right off the bat. It's for that very reason that How I Met Your Mother became such a strong show - it had a brilliant central premise that was clearly referenced and yet not actually resolved immediately

Partners could have been a better show had more thought gone into writing up the character profiles and the storylines around them. And while I feel bad that it went away, I can also totally understand why. Thus the series can only really get 2 Superman jokes dropped into the character dialog out of a possible 5.

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