Review: Partners 1×1 (CBS)

It's a crime

Partners (CBS)

In the US: Mondays, 8.30/7.30c, CBS
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Gay men, hey? Who’d employ them? Airheads with low IQs and zero knowledge of the world outside of shoe shops and musical theatre, who’d prefer to gossip rather than work. Over-emotional racist sexual harassers who are more feminine and effeminate than the average woman.

You might as well as well sign up for your complimentary lawsuit and series of written job performance warnings as soon as you’ve said, “You’re hired” to any one of them.

That, at least, is the message you’d be taking away from US TV this fall from shows such as The New Normal and now CBS’s Partners. It’s like the last 20 years of progress have just disappeared overnight. Tom Hanks in Philadelphia? Was he even gay? In those ensembles? I don’t think so.

But for the network that currently has that study in prejudice 2 Broke Girls and the horror story that is Mike and Molly, Partners is a minor hate crime at worst. More troublesome is its unoriginality and almost complete lack of funny moments.

Starring the woefully miscast David Krumholtz (Numb3rs, The Playboy Club) as a semi-alpha male architect and Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) as his lifelong friend and work colleague, the show revolves around Krumholtz and Urie’s dominating friendship and the relationship difficulties that their partners – Brandon “I was Superman” Routh and Sophia “I wasn’t but I was in One Tree Hill – does that count?” Bush – have as a result of competing with this all-consuming friendship.

If that all sounds familiar, maybe that’s because in 1995 there was a sitcom on Fox called Partners. It had the same director (James Burrows) and the same concept (two young male architects, one of whom has a girlfriend, the other vying for his friend’s attention). The show’s producers, who made Will & Grace, are even big fans of the original.

Who needs original ideas any more? Here’s a trailer so you can bask in its desperate, unoriginal unfunniness.

PARTNERS is a comedy based on the lives of creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, about two life-long best friends and business partners whose “bromance” is tested when one of them is engaged to be married. Joe is an accomplished architect who leads with his head and not his heart, especially in his love life. That’s in stark contrast to his gay co-worker, Louis, who is spontaneous, emotional and prone to exaggeration. Both have found joy in their love lives: Joe is newly engaged to Ali, a beautiful and sophisticated jewelry designer, and Louis’ companion is Wyatt, a vegan nurse who Louis insists is just a promotion away from becoming a doctor. As news of Joe’s engagement settles, time will tell if their business and personal bond can adapt to the addition of two other important relationships.

Is it any good?
There have been better sitcoms. Much better sitcoms. Such as the producers of Partners‘ own Will & Grace. Sure that had the ‘fabulous’ Jack, but it also had Will to constantly undermine his flamboyance. There was depth to the range of gay characters. This, like almost anything on CBS, goes for stereotypes and sticks with them.

That alone, apparently, is enough for a sitcom these days. It’s not intelligent scripting or scenarios. It’s not jokes. No, it’s just stereotypes.

That goes for straight men and women, too. Krumholtz is an architect; his fiancee, Bush, is a jewelry designer. She wants to get married and have kids. He doesn’t – at first – until he thinks she’s cooling off on her own idea and in true Rules style, wants her even more. Remember how I was talking about originality earlier? Perhaps you might have seen this scenario once or twice in sitcoms?

Anyway, the message, as always, is that straight men are manly commitment phobes; straight women are girly and only want to get married and have kids; gay men are effeminate.

Brandon Routh, showing an unexpected degree of range not evident in Superman and Chuck, is actually fine in this as Urie’s boyfriend, although again he’s a nurse (apparently, in-series, an obvious gay profession), which is apparently not as good as being a doctor. But he dials down the camp to just minor levels – as with The New Normal, the producers have hired straight actors to play the less flamboyant gay characters, and hired gay actors for the really offensive stereotypes, to insulate themselves from criticism.

Krumholtz, however, is just wrong in this. Try as he might to be all manly, not even a nice suit and tie can make him anything but a nebbish. If Routh and he had swapped roles, that would have worked fine, but as it is, it’s completely unbelievable.

Sophia Bush is fine. At the moment, her role is thankless – she, as with Routh, are mere plot devices, mechanisms for framing the two ‘partners’ and developing their personalities. But given time, she might get to do something good. Something.

There’s also a Latina assistant. She talks about cutting people, if she’s annoyed. Urie likes to rub his face in her breasts in times of stress. Laughing yet?

As it is, we have Will & Grace, but as if it had been Will & Jack and Grace just got to stand there, but without any jokes. The funniest thing in the whole show? The opening titles, where you can see how much taller Routh is than everyone else:

Brandon Routh

The man’s a giant. So if instead of watching the programme, you just kept that image on freeze frame for 30 minutes, you’ll probably have a more entertaining time.

PS I actually have a gay friend who’s an architect. Occasionally, he plays up to the camp – but not flamboyant camp – stereotype, but largely he’s like any other guy. He’s also a black belt/sash in jiu jitsu and wing chun, and a mountaineer. Wouldn’t it be nice to see that kind of gay man represented on TV for a change?


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.