The Week in TV: Whitney As Bad As We'd Feared
Whitney: Like a sitcom, only without the jokes.
This was the week in TV Land:
• Well, we're a week into the new season, and a lot of new shows have premiered and old ones have returned. I made the mistake of watching 2 Broke Girls and Whitney last week, an experience that left me feeling scraped-out and sad. Whitney star Whitney Cummings created both, and they share a brassy devotion to broad punch lines over actual jokes or observations about their characters. (2 Broke Girls also boasted some staggeringly bad puns, thanks to co-creator Michael Patrick King of Sex and the City.) The wocka-wocka my-crazy-boyfriend stuff is gonna get old fast.
I had a much better time with New Girl, which was cute and had a few nice laughs. Also, the surprisingly okay (?) Person of Interest on CBS. The pilot was a bit weighed down by exposition as it set up its premise, but the action and twists were pretty solid for a network show (and downright Shakespearean for CBS). That one's definitely worth sticking with for now.
• Speaking of premieres: Last week's season opener of Two and a Half Men drew 27.7 million viewers and a 10.3 rating in the demo. In terms of total viewers, that's a 90 percent jump from last year's season premiere, which pulled in 14.6 million viewers and a 4.9 in the demo. Such is the allure of watching Charlie Sheen die, even if it's just as a loathsome character that long ago became hopelessly married to his own public identity. Those numbers are shocking and more than a little depressing, but they're also not sustainable. It was a surge born of curiosity, one of the final gasps in the public's fascination with Sheen's self-destruction. Now it's time to let it go.
• Chris Hardwick's having a good year. In addition to shooting a pilot for BBC America based on his Nerdist podcast, he's been hired by AMC to host Talking Dead, a live after-show that will air following The Walking Dead this fall. It'll be a half-hour show in which Hardwick and fans talk about the episode and probably get into arguments about zombie nature and whether they could theoretically survive an outbreak of the undead. The show will premiere on Sunday, October 16, right after the season premiere of The Walking Dead, but after that it'll shift to Fridays (starting Nov. 4) and air after the weekly repeat. That'll give viewers an extra chance to catch the new episode before the after-show.
• When Ben & Jerry's announced plans to actually make an ice cream flavor based on SNL's "Schweddy Balls" sketch, everyone nodded and said, "That's about right. Maybe I'll buy some." Everyone, that is, except One Million Moms, a very bored subset of the Mississippi-based American Family Association that has decided that a pun-based ice cream flavor is the worst thing to ever happen. "The vulgar new flavor has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive," the group said in a statement that sounds about as laid-back and fun as you'd expect from the American Family Association. The upset moms need not worry, though. The flavor's a limited-time offering. When it's gone, you can go back to buying Karamel Sutra and repressing your feelings.
• Ted Haggard, the evangelical megachurch minister who fell from grace and landed on a gay prostitute's meth-covered dick, has been doing his damnedest in recent months to claw his way back into the limelight. First it was TLC's Scandalous, a special in which he tried to act as normal as possible. Now he's letting himself sink to the bottom of the pit that is reality TV with an appearance on ABC's Celebrity Wife Swap, the famous-people version of the show that rearranges families for a few days and then watches contestants try not to murder each other. Haggard will swap partners with Gary Busey, who isn't married but rather is dating someone, making this whole thing just one big lie, man. Busey hasn't been around much recently, but that's only because he's converted to Christianity and gotten involved with the Promise Keepers. (Seriously.) In a cruel move meant to rub the show's mockery of marriage in the faces of those who are denied marriage rights by the show's stars, the episode will shoot at the GLBT Pride Center in Colorado Springs.
• The CW is developing a game show called Extreme Musical Chairs. I give up.
• Showing an almost admirable resistance to the critical and public outcries for his removal from the entertainment industry, Entourage creator Doug Ellin is setting up another pilot at HBO. In a daring departure from the material he's known for, the new show, 40, will be about the minor problems of financially independent white American men who find themselves baffled by existential crises the rest of us will thankfully never confront. (Just imagining what life would be like if I were a movie star or -- worse -- a millionaire from the financial sector makes me start to sweat.) Michael Imperioli and Adrian Pasdar have just joined the cast, which also includes Ed Burns and Michael Rapaport, so expect plenty of monologues about drinking.
• The two best sketches from Saturday Night Live's season premiere (though the cold open had its moments):
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