I’m the first person to admit that I was excited about Partners. It didn’t exactly sound promising, but it did promise the silly-enough-to-work pairing of Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence. Both actors are sitcom veterans, both are very funny, and both appear to be such opposites that it feels oddly perfect to pair them up in a buddy comedy. The show was ordered on the 10/90 model: If enough people watch 10 episodes, FX will automatically give the show 90 more. With that in mind, I’m begging you: Please don’t watch Partners when it premieres on Monday. Please don’t allow FX to produce 100 episodes of this awful mess. The world has more than enough terribleness in it already.
Partners, if you must know, focuses on two lawyers who are polar opposites: pretentious, high-end Allen (Kelsey Grammer) and “ethics driven” Marcus (Martin Lawrence), who form an unlikely partnership. Hilarity would ensue if the writers knew what hilarity meant. If you want to get an idea of precisely what variety of shitty this show is, look no further than the official description from FX: “Partners is a smart, edgy legal comedy highlighting the cultural contrast between the haves, the have-nots, and the ‘Aww, Hell-No’s’.”
Partners is neither smart nor edgy. It says nothing about cultural contrasts — at one point, Allen reassures Marcus that he had a black best friend growing up; what he means is, he had a black Labrador. The show is not even a comedy, no matter how much the piped-in audience laughter tries to persuade us otherwise.
The pilot episode establishes the two lawyers’ downhill life trajectories: Allen has been fired from his father’s law firm; Marcus just got divorced from his wife. Super-nice, sad-sack Marcus lives with his mother and is letting his ex-wife’s lawyer walk all over him. Allen steps in, for no real reason, and helps prove that Marcus’ ex-wife has been sleeping with a priest. (I know you’re wondering, so yes, there are jokes about missionary position and second comings.) It’s just a roundabout way of forcing these two to work together so they can ultimately become law-firm partners.
The only other episode sent out to critics centers on a gay wedding — ahem, a “gwedding,” as the show oh-so-cleverly puts it — and the evil wedding planner who duped the newly married couple. If you’ve ever seen any television show, then you already know what’s coming: Allen and Marcus pose as a gay couple planning their wedding. Glad they got the “pretend to be gay” storyline out by the second episode — I was expecting it to occur during sweeps week. At one point, Allen says, “You’re making a Brokeback Mountain out of a mole hill.” It is not the only Brokeback Mountain reference in the episode.
A b-plot involves Allen’s daughter hanging out with Marcus’ mother; a friend of mine acutely observed that Partners is basically a show about white people getting the sassy black friends they’ve always wanted.
The sad part is, Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence are both funny, talented actors who are stuck in this ongoing, horrid MadTV sketch filled with “edgy” jokes that, at worst, make you cringe and, at best, put you to sleep. They both play the equivalent of stepdads struggling to be cool, the kind of guys who blast The Offspring while picking up their new children from school, trying desperately to gain a surly teen’s approval. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved: the writers, the cast, the network, and the viewers.
FX/FXX has a history of creating wonderful comedies (The League, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and recently premiered two unique and great sitcoms (You’re The Worst and Married), so I can’t imagine what the hell the network was thinking with this one. It has star power, sure, and I assume it’s relatively cheap to make, but is that really worth it? I doubt Partners will ever rise to a watchable level, let alone ever become good. Please, don’t let them make 100 episodes.