Ellen Gray: 'Partners' can't live up to 'Will & Grace'

David Krumholtz (left) who stars in the new show "Partners," takes cues from director James Burrows (right).
David Krumholtz (left) who stars in the new show "Partners," takes cues from director James Burrows (right).
Posted: September 25, 2012

PARTNERS. 8:30 p.m. Monday, CBS 3.

THERE'S A MOMENT in the Monday premiere of CBS' "Partners" that pretty much sums up my problem with the show.

Louis (Michael Urie) is with his boyfriend, Wyatt (Brandon Routh) - who is a nurse and wonders why Louis keeps telling everyone he's a doctor - is startled to find out it really bothers Louis that Wyatt is really a nurse.

"I just thought it was part of your shtick," says Wyatt.

"Sweetheart, I am my shtick," replies Louis.

And so he appears to be, at least in the two episodes I've seen of "Partners," a show ostensibly based on the real-life relationship of friends and writing partners Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, whose gay/straight alliance produced the hit "Will & Grace."

I'd have expected that show, groundbreaking in 1998, would have paved the way by 2012 for a far smarter series than "Partners," whose one-joke premise seems to be that Louis is shallow and that his childhood best friend and business partner Joe (David Krumholtz) puts up with him because - well, it's not entirely clear why he puts up with him.

Their relationship is destined to be complicated when Joe becomes engaged to Ali (Sophia Bush), which, in what Mutchnick has described as an "unfortunate coincidence," is also what happened at the beginning of a 1995-96 Fox sitcom, also called "Partners," whose main characters, like Joe and Louis, worked together as architects.

(Both those guys, played by Tate Donovan and Jon Cryer, were supposed to be straight, though Cryer's character did buy his partner's fiancee - not Ali but Alicia - a dress in the second episode, according to IMDB.com. And the show's co-creator, Jeff Greenstein, would go on to work as an executive producer for Kohan and Mutchnick on "Will & Grace." But really, folks, just keep moving. Nothing to see here.)

Urie, an energetic actor whose stereotypical character in "Ugly Betty" was at least allowed to deepen over time, isn't well-served by an endless stream of one-liners and double entendres ("Gays can't drive stick! Ironic, right?"), and Krumholtz, as the literal straight man, might as well be swatting flies when the two are together.

Bush, who at some point became the only excuse I had left for watching "One Tree Hill," is charming as Ali. And Routh is endearing, if a little dim, as Louis' love, who never, ever gets the joke.

He's a lucky man.


Contact Ellen Gray at graye@phillynews.com or 215-854-5950. Follow her on Twitter @elgray. Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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