When CBS cancelled its freshman sitcom within twenty-four hours of ABC’s axing of “Last Resort” and “666 Park Avenue,” the Internet furor never came. Of the three shows, “Partners” generated the least network hate. While the show was okay, it was far from must-see TV.
There was a time when I’d tune in to any show that featured a gay character. I wanted to see Billy Crystal on “Soap”, but my mother forbid me from watching. The first regular gay characters I remember were Steven Carrington on Dynasty and that throw-away gay couple that engaged in the first televised same sex bed scene on “thirtysomething”. In the 1990s, I remember gathering with a group of friends on Monday nights to see if Matt would ever gain a sex life on “Melrose Place”. Then came “Will & Grace” and the British and American versions of “Queer as Folk.” (I tried but I couldn’t stick with the American version. The actor who played Michael annoyed me in every scene.)
Yes, it used to be that gay characters on TV created Event Viewing for a gay man. It is a sign of progress that such is no longer the case. Admittedly, I stuck with a couple of extra seasons of “Brothers & Sisters”, primarily because of how adorable Kevin’s beau, Scotty, was. (Oh, Luke Macfarlane, come back!) While I regularly watch Cam and Mitchell on “Modern Family”, I choose to watch because the whole darn show is hysterical and all the actors are so talented. Tossing in a needless gay couple on “Desperate Housewives” did not sustain my interest, I was a fickle fan of the dark, sometimes morose “Six Feet Under” with Michael C. Hall playing the gay brother and my days of feeling gleeful about “Glee” are past.
This fall, I looked forward to two new series that prominently featured gay characters. Ryan Murphy’s “The New Normal” garnered more publicity, including threatened boycotts from the two dozen members of One Million Moms. I watched a trailer of the show back in June and predicted the show would be dead on arrival. I have watched two episodes and the only interesting character is the sage Shania Clemmons (played by Bebe Wood), the young daughter of the gay couple’s surrogate mom. It has been given a full season order, not because anyone is talking about it around the water cooler, but I suspect because networks want in on Murphy’s Next Big Thing, assuming he has something left in the tank.
I felt “Partners” was the better show and watched it whenever I made it home early enough from the ferry on Monday nights. It was fine, something to watch as I made dinner or checked emails. Louis, as played by Michael Urie, was a married version of his character Marc St. James from “Ugly Betty”. Moreover, there was something even more familiar. The show might as well have been called “Will & Jack” as Louis was a slight tweaking of Sean Hayes’ Jack McFarland and his straight friend-for-life Joe had an uncanny resemblance to Eric McCormack’s Will Truman. (So often, I could hear McCormack’s voice delivering the lines.) Been there, done that. And better to boot!
Despite having a gay couple as half the main cast, “Partners” was nothing new. It failed, not because America doesn’t want gays invading their living rooms, but because it had little to offer. As over the top as Louis may have been, I liked him. Can’t say the same for the other characters which were different incarnations of bland. I confused the sassy office worker from “The New Normal” with the one on “Partners”—both parts are utterly disposable. (Too bad they couldn’t poach David Spade.) Most egregious was the depiction of Louis’ boyfriend, Wyatt, played by Superman stud Brandon Routh. Who decided to make this piece of eye candy intentionally flavorless? Wyatt was essentially a non-character. If the creators wanted to cast someone to give a flat delivery of lines, why not go back to the original source and bring on Shelley Morrison’s Rosario? (There’s got to be a Members Only jacket for sale on eBay.) Finally, “Partners” did not fit in its time slot, not smart enough to follow “How I Met Your Mother” and not dumb enough to precede “Two Broke Girls”. Simply stated, it was not enough.
It was “nice” knowing “Partners” for a couple of months, but we all know that relationships must evolve beyond nice. This is one amicable breakup.