x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Keeping the love alive

In her new sitcom, Whitney Cummings comically explores ways to keep a relationship ticking in an era where marriage can be a shaky proposition.

In the world of the American comedian Whitney Cummings, first comes love, then comes NO marriage – and let's totally forget about baby in the baby carriage.

Love's all about the R-word – the relationship – for this willowy 29-year-old brunette who brashly devotes untold comic energy to keeping her happily unmarried love life alive and percolating in her new sitcom, Whitney, with her live-in boyfriend, Alex (Chris D'Elia).

Her fear of seeing her love fade and bust like it has for so many around her friends, married and otherwise, drives the story engine in Whitney.

"The show is basically just my point of view of what relationships are about," she says in an NBC online interview. "I have a lot of divorce in my family, which most people of my generation do now. What that's done to our generation is make us a little more cynical and sceptical and doubtful when it comes to marriage and monogamy. I'm exploring those ideas."

"Even if your parents aren't divorced and you don't come from a lot of divorce, all you see around you now in the media is divorce," she adds. "Tiger Woods cheated. David Letterman cheated. Sandra Bullock got cheated on – so I don't know what that means for the rest of us, you know. I'm going to get breast implants any day now."

In her sitcom, as a fictionalised version of herself, she plays a photographer to Alex's internet entrepreneur, and marriage would appear to be the dirtiest word they know. Little couple things, such as his not sharing the password to his phone, can set her off like TNT. Or even the slightest hint of relationship boredom can crank them both into a crazy competition to see who can be the most romantic.

Stirring the comic pot here are their opinionated friends who include: sweet, upbeat, marriage-friendly Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones); sceptical divorcee Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn); sensitive Renaissance man Neal (Maulik Pancholy) who's dating Lily; and avowed bachelor, "ultimate player" and policeman Mark (Dan O'Brien) who talks a good game.

Expect a bit of stunt-casting starpower in Whitney, as well. TV Guide recently reported that John Cleese will make a rare TV guest appearance as a therapist, Dr Grant, in a forthcoming episode.

While Whitney got off to a shaky start last autumn in the US – the first few episodes come off a bit choppy as Cummings and the thespian crew struggle to find their comic footing – edgy comedy still shines through in each half-hour.

Most North American critics agreed that, by the season's end, the show had hit its stride and deserved an audience. Rather than cancel, NBC happily moved it to Wednesday from Thursday primetime earlier this month, where its ratings now show solid growth.

Its theme, of keeping one's love alive, is evergreen and timeless, after all. "How do we compromise, and how do we negotiate, the happily ever after fairy tale that we were taught when we were kids – and then the reality that we actually learn when we grow up," asks Cummings. "I'm a modern woman who wants love, who wants the fairy tale, who wants what you see in the movies, but who also knows the harsh reality that half of all marriages end." As she pointedly asks Alex in the premiere episode: "If half of all planes crashed, would you continue to fly?"

But love's a whole different kettle of fish to Whitney, it would appear, and well worth the cast of her amorous net.

 

Whitney premieres on Sunday and is broadcast Sundays and Mondays on OSN Comedy and OSN Comedy +2

 

artslife@thenational.ae

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