Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Episode 1506: When Meta Isn't Always Good

Depending on how far ahead a comedy like Partners is written and filmed, I'd say that this week's episode (which may have been aired out of order) was indicative of the show's going for broke, pun intended, as you'll soon see. CBS comedies aren't exactly famous for being meta, since that's more an NBC thing, although that network generally seems to be embarrassed by that brand of humour (see its treatment of critics' darling Community). This week, however, Partners seemed determined to rub its audience's faces in just how meta it could be, beginning with the episode's tongue-in-cheek title, '2 Broke Guys', an unsubtle reference to 2 Broke Girls, for which Partners is the lead-in. Then the show launched into an extended riff on Brandon Routh's turn as Superman (let's face it, probably still his best-known role). An NBC comedy could have pulled this off (yes, even insufferable The New Normal, I think), but on CBS, the meta moment just came off as forced, even if Routh's character is ironically the most likeable character on Partners.

Later on, the episode also gave us a slow motion-style scene of Routh and Sophia Bush's characters making sexy faces at the camera. Fairly lazy, as far as being meta goes, but hey, if the show had gone this direction right at the beginning of its run, it might've made it stand out in a year of fairly lacklustre TV debuts, if only for a week or two. (Yes, there's Revolution, which is still being hailed as an authentic hit of this TV season, but while I'm betting it's no one-and-done like FlashForward or The Event, I'm also convinced the show is hugely overrated and its ratings will reflect this when it comes back after its winter hiatus.) However, the real problem is that fundamentally, Partners isn't a show that is improved by being meta, the way that something like Community undoubtedly is. Partners is a relationship comedy, except the relationship at its core is a bromance, rather than the romantic endgames of something like How I Met Your Mother. As such, it works best when it's grounding itself in realism, albeit a heightened one where Michael Urie's witticisms are bookended by that staccato percussion line from Imagine Dragons 'On Top Of The World'. (Great song, by the way.)

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