November 10, 2012
Cummings hopes to repair show
By BILL HARRIS QMI Agency
There's no actual school for making sitcoms. But listening to Whitney Cummings, maybe there should be.
Cummings' self-titled sitcom Whitney returns for its second season Wednesday on NBC and CTV Two. Mid-November is not a traditional marquee time for a series to launch or return, but a spot opened up on the NBC schedule when Animal Practice had to be put down.
Cummings usually is a brave comedian in terms of content, which is why the first season of Whitney was disappointing, at least in my opinion. It was just so, well, ordinary. And of all the things I might have expected from Whitney Cummings, ordinary was not one of them.
Perhaps a better showcase for Cummings' charms will be her upcoming weekly talk series, Love You, Mean It with Whitney Cummings, which debuts Nov. 28 on E!. In that one, Cummings simply will offer her comedic observations on pop culture.
But first up, Cummings is getting a second chance to take her sitcom that literally seemed to be about nothing -- that only worked for Seinfeld, folks -- and turn it into something.
"I wish I had a cocaine dealer," Cummings quipped when asked what she would have changed about the first season of Whitney. "I wish a lot of things."
Cummings admitted the project immediately got off on the wrong foot with the pilot episode.
"We had too many people in our studio audience, we had like 250 people, and the laughs were really loud," Cummings recalled. "And as an inexperienced writer of the pilot, I jammed the pilot with jokes, because as a standup, you want it to be as funny as possible.
"So it was like, laugh, laugh, laugh. The feedback was that people started thinking it was a laugh track and that it was fake.
"I got so much s--- for that, for stuff I just didn't know."
So, where were the network and studio people who were supposed to be helping? That's the bigger question, right?
"The first season was a big learning curve for a lot of reasons, having a multi-camera show on a single-camera network (NBC)," Cummings said. To clarify, multi-camera shows have studio audiences, while single-camera shows -- such as NBC's 30 Rock, The Office, Up All Night, Go On, Community, The New Normal and Parks and Recreation -- do not.
"So throughout the (first) season, I worked on taking the mics out of the audience," Cummings continued. "Now we have only 100 people in the audience, we have less microphones.
"If we were at CBS (which specializes in multi-camera shows, such as The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls), I don't think it would have been a problem. Being on NBC, you know, there's a stigma against multi-camera shows."
Well, whether that's true or not, there always is a stigma against shows that don't quite work, regardless of the network.
Whitney Cummings is fortunate that Whitney was not expelled after its freshman year. It should be obvious quickly in the sophomore season whether or not the woman in charge has been a good student.