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The Telefile
<I>Partners</I>: This Partnership Went Very, Very Wrong

This fall season, there are some truly dreadful sitcoms slated: there's one with Reba playing a down-on-her-luck version of herself, one with aliens living amongst us and one with a monkey doctor. Yet despite all of those terrible premises, this simple show about best friends turned out to be the most excruciating pilot of them all.

I pride myself on sitting through every minute of every network pilot each fall season, but Partners was a real struggle. The problem was possibly that I had any expectations for this show at all. While the clips shown at the May upfront were totally underwhelming, the series has a solid cast and some genuine creative talent behind it, so poor editing could have been at fault in the initial preview. Sadly, as is often the case, the best footage was actually shown there. While the couple of minutes I saw last spring were forgettable, the full-length version made me audibly groan and wish that I could turn the show off.

See, I actually like David Krumholtz. In fact -- secret shame -- I watched almost every episode of Numbers, which says more about my lack of social life on Friday nights than anything else. I enjoy Michael Urie, because even though Ugly Betty was only hatewatchable towards the end, he was the highlight of each episode. Brandon Routh and Sophia Bush are attractive and likeable enough. And with the writing team of Max Mutchnick and David Kohan (the guys behind Will & Grace) at the helm, this should have been a lot funnier than it was. Instead it's a grating old-school sitcom with predictable jokes that land like anvils hitting the floor.

The basic setup is that Joe (Krumholtz) and Louis (Urie) are best friends and now business partners doing architecture and design. Joe's the rational straight man and Louis is the spontaneous gay man and the two fall into every stereotype category possible. Joe's got Ali (Bush), his girlfriend of a year whom he's not sure he's ready to commit to. Louis's partner is Wyatt (Routh), a male nurse whom Louis keeps bumping up to Doctor in his mind. The two besties are totally co-dependent on each other and their significant others are extraordinarily understanding about their need to discuss life's minutia constantly.

In the premiere, Louis nearly screws up Joe's relationship with Ali, and then they stop being friends for five minutes, and then make up. Is this the way each episode is going to go? If so, I'm not interested. It seems like the writers want a modern-day Oscar/Felix dynamic, but neither character is really that polarizing. And as much as we want to root for more gay couples on TV, Louis and Wyatt are far less interesting than the boys on The New Normal or even Cam and Mitchell. And Joe and Ali are one of the blandest twosomes currently on television. From her obsession with jewelry to his neurotic tendencies, they could be anyone and their unoriginal names don't help matters.

The cast's talents are clearly underutilized with this sanitized and generic material, and that's a disappointment. And the show just plods along so that its 22 minutes feels like two hours... I was begging for it to be over and really had the urge to reach for my remote to fast-forward to the end. CBS would do better airing back-to-back Mike & Molly episodes, because at least that show has a really funny supporting cast and occasionally witty dialogue. As it stands, Partners is going to make us tune out after How I Met Your Mother, which I'm only sticking with for the eventual reveal of the mother at this point.

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