Whitney Season 2 Review “Breaking Dad”

Le Sigh. You know you’re in trouble when the best thing about an episode is its title. In the case of the latest episode of “Whitney,” that title was “Breaking Dad,” which is admittedly pretty clever. Still, the clever mostly ended there, I’m afraid.

This has not been the best month for our Whitney, who just got the news that her talk show, “Love You, Mean It,” has been axed last week, with this show also on the bubble, which means prospects are iffy for renewal at best. That doesn’t mean it’s down for the count completely, but clearly some changes are needed.

The worst thing is, I’m not even sure what can be done. I mean, the ensemble on the whole is fine and likeable- they’re not the problem. Those of us familiar with her work also know that she can be super-funny, particularly in her stand-up comedy, and on her appearances on “Chelsea Lately.” For that matter, her other show, “2 Broke Girls” is regularly one of the top ten shows on television, according to the Nielsen ratings. So, critical and snarky fan reception on the whole aside, some people clearly do like what she does. So, what’s the problem? Can this show be saved?

It’s also not just the formula. “2 Broke Girls” is every bit as formulaic as “Whitney.” Hell, the clear antecedent for this show is “Friends,” and that was formulaic, too, and it hit big. “Whitney” is nothing if not, as I’ve said before, sort of the hipster version of that show. Yes, many of us find hipsters insufferable, but it’s not like they’re spouting off about Pere Ubu or the films of Lars von Trier or whatever. I simply mean that it’s a hipper show than “Friends,” not that the show is too “inside” for its own good.

I feel for Cummings and I wish I knew the solution to her problems, but she had better do something and fast or this show’s going down, too. Best of luck to her in those endeavors. She’ll need it, if this episode is any indication.

Basically, the entire show revolved around Whitney coming into an unexpected windfall, courtesy of her heretofore super-unreliable and mostly useless father, played by the gifted Peter Gallagher. He does what he can with the material, but let’s face it: there’s not a lot to work with here. He’s probably better off not quitting his other main gig, the much-more enjoyable “Covert Affairs,” which I do like a lot.

Dad bestows upon her $5000 and tells her it’s payback for all the suffering he’s caused her. Whitney is flabbergasted, understandably, and doesn’t know what to make of it- or what to do with the cash. Alex wants her to finance a gallery showing her photographs. I’ve been watching this show for nearly two seasons, and I realized I didn’t have the slightest idea what she did for a living, even though they must have mentioned it.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Aside from working stiffs Mark and RJ, who run a bar the gang frequent, we all but never see these people working. And yet, Whitney and Alex have super-nice digs, as does everyone else, save poor Lily, who’s been crashing on Roxanne’s couch for some time now. As such, Whitney takes pity on her and offers her the money after Lily’s sob story proves the most effective, when everyone says what they would do with the money.

Alex isn’t thrilled and tells Whitney so. As much as I understood his wanting Whitney to do something positive for herself, I could help but wonder why he didn’t say: how about we use some of that to pay our bills? I mean, I seem to recall not too terribly long ago in this season Alex mentioning that they had less money that he thought they did, and might have to scale back on any extraneous spending. What happened with that? I mean, hey, by all means, I get wanting to help Lily, but couldn’t they give her some of the money and spend the rest of paying some bills or saving it in the bank for a rainy day when they need it? Roxanne actually had the right idea.

As if all that weren’t enough, when Whitney gives Lily the money, Alex still offers to finance her dreams, and she refuses. Sure, part of the reason is fear of rejection- there was a very real moment in which Whitney commented about some of the negative internet she’d gotten (both here and on her talk show to boot, in fact)- but still, if your own boyfriend is supporting your dream, couldn’t you at least humor him a bit? Even if you do fail miserably?

Meanwhile, Roxanne, to whom Lily has given the money for safekeeping, loses it. As if that weren’t bad enough, Whitney’s dad comes back to ask her for it back for repairs on his business until the insurance money kicks in. So, Whitney is forced to get the money back from Lily, who, of course, doesn’t have it anymore. Neither does Roxanne, but she writes a check for it anyway, it being her fault and all.

Whitney goes to deliver the check, but discovers her dad staying in a ritzy hotel, and sniffs out the BS he’s been selling. Recognizing a scam when she sees one, she retracts the check, saying she’s earned it for all his lies over the years, and she’s right to do so. What’s not right is Alex’s steeping aside with her dad to tell him to back off of Whitney- but to call him if he does need anything. Yeah, that’s a smart move.

Ultimately, Whitney returns the check to Lily, who decides to give it to Mark, whose bar is struggling. Becoming an investor, she also decides to make a few changes, one of which is to class up the joint, starting with allowing Whitney to display her photographs, a compromise with Alex that Whitney can live with. So, all’s well that ends well- except maybe for Roxanne, obviously, who never tells anyone what’s happened.

If all of this doesn’t sound very funny, well…it isn’t really. As with the episode where Alex let his ex come stay with them and it almost broke him and Whitney up, the scenario didn’t exactly lend itself to much in the way of comedy. Oh, there was the occasional decent line here and there- my favorite being the aforementioned exchange about her internet issues.

Whitney: “People said [my photographs] were weird and aggressive.”
Alex: “But you are weird and aggressive.”

Truer words were never spoken. What Whitney also is, is funny- at least under certain circumstances, this show not being one of them. Would that it weren’t the case.

What do you think of “Whitney”? Can it be saved? Should it be saved? Why do you think what works well in her stand-up doesn’t translate well to her show? Let me know what you think in the comments. Maybe together we can help save this show. If not, well, there’s always “2 Broke Girls” to fall back on, right?