Help! I've Whitney-ed And I Can't Get Up!

Until recently, I carried inside of me a deep, dark secret that I wasn’t willing to share with anyone. As time inevitably passed and the secret became too difficult to hide, I told my boyfriend. Then I confided in a couple of select friends. I even started broaching the matter at work – subtly at first, and then with more conviction. And now, at last, I am finally willing to tell the world. I, Sarah Heyward, watch Whitney.

Please consider the facts without judgment or derision. I didn’t ask for this to happen to me, but I can’t say I’m unhappy about it. After all, how can I object to something that gives me so much pleasure? Let’s review the facts.

  • Whitney has improved a TON since the first episode. The world needs to acknowledge that. I think a lot of people watched the pilot and quickly dismissed the show as old-fashioned at best and misogynistic at worst. But for those of us who bravely marched forward, something changed. The characters developed. The relationships became more nuanced. The jokes started to feel fresher – less reliant on the pseudo-shock-value of the word “vagina” and more attuned to the quirks of the individual characters. I feel totally comfortable stating that every episode has been better than the one before it.
  • Whitney as a character is hilarious. I love her. Yes, the ad campaign leading up to the series premiere was unfortunate, and yes, she’s loud and I guess occasionally obnoxious, but once you get to know her you realize it’s only in the most charming way. She is a total oddball weirdo who has strong female friendships and can hang with the guys, speaks her mind, knows what she wants, and is never too cool to admit she has hurt feelings. Yes, there are actual feelings on this show, and watching it stimulates actual feelings in me, too. Plus, as an actress, Whitney Cummings has impeccable comic timing and a super-appealing gawky screen presence that’s simply fun to watch.
  • The dynamic between the characters of Whitney and her boyfriend Alex creates one of the most enjoyable couplings currently on TV. They are AWESOME together. I’d even go so far as to say that their chemistry is crackling. They genuinely seem to love each other, and that is the ever-present undercurrent that allows them to bicker and fight and negotiate without ever making you want to scream at the TV, “Enough’s enough!” I almost always can understand both sides of their arguments, and it’s rarely in the annoying sitcom-y misunderstanding type of way, nor do they rely on the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus tropes for which Whitney gets so much undeserved flack. Also, Whitney and Alex actually communicate with each other and, shocker, tell each other how they are feeling. A lot. That’s pretty rare on a sitcom, wouldn’t you say?
  • Along those lines, Alex himself is a huge draw for me. He is simply one of the more realistic male characters on television. With different casting, the show might not work as well, but the actor who plays Alex (Chris D’Elia) has created an authentic, multidimensional character who quite frankly reminds me of guys I know and hang out with. Possibly my own boyfriend in particular. But let’s not digress. The point is that Alex is neither a “perfect” boyfriend nor a cliched sexist husband-type who expects Whitney to clean up after him. He’s just a real-seeming guy who can be sensitive and can also be totally insensitive – which should sound familiar to anyone who’s spent time with a member of the male sex. He’s also cool and funny and his genuine affection for Whitney shines through, so even when he’s kind of being a dick, you never ever doubt why she’s with him.
  • I like the premise. There is something interesting to me about a couple of marriageable age who have been together for years but are choosing not to marry. I don’t care if there’s nothing scandalous about two unmarried people living together – that is not the point of the show. Rather, the conflict comes from this choice they are making that, like it or not, goes against what society (and most of their relatives) expect of them. The problems that arise feel real to me as a result, and I am genuinely interested in why their relationship works the way it does and how marriage might (or might not) disrupt that balance.
  • The side characters are growing on me. Probably the last remaining roadblock in my journey toward Whitney fandom, the friend group irritated me at first. But now I’ve come to appreciate each of them. What began as a posse of one-dimensional characters (the sex-obsessed bachelor friend, the drunken party girl) is now a group of fleshed-out people with complicated back stories and relationships to each other. I really like hanging out with them, even if the Whitney/Alex scenes will always be my favorites.
  • The show makes me laugh. And you know what, it might make you laugh too. Forget about how it’s, like, soooooooo weeeeeeird to have a laugh track (seriously, WHO CARES) and just let yourself enjoy. Whether Whitney is making Alex fill out an insurance form as part of their sexy-nurse role play or abandoning him with an armed mugger, she’s a hilarious character and the jokes land more often than not. I promise.

In truth, what also helped me overcome any reservations I had about this show was thinking of it as a soothing sitcom from a bygone television era. What if it were 1995 and Whitney were sandwiched between Friends and Seinfeld on Must See TV? When you think about it that way, it’s sort of like a junior Mad About You. Sure, I love 30 Rock and Modern Family and I’m completely excited for this newish wave of single-camera semi-experimental television, but at the end of the night there’s something deeply relaxing about Whitney‘s (yes, familiar) format combined with fresh, funny comedy.

At the very least, don’t judge me for watching. And if you do decide to give Whitney a chance and find yourself smiling despite yourself, call me. The fan club is always looking for new members.

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