Monday, March 19, 2012

Masochistic Viewings: Whitney "The Ex Box" 1x19

There's a fair amount of television shows that I love to scorn and mock that I've never actually taken the time to watch. Perhaps it's unfair of me to do so, but I've had a hard time subjecting to myself to these shows that appear to be so atrocious. That changes, at least in part, today. In Masochistic Viewings, I'm going to subject myself to shows that I've ridiculed but never actually watched. Who knows? Maybe I'll prove myself wrong and find a new favorite show, but it's more likely I'll just grow stronger in my hatred.

For my first victim (or I suppose you could say torturer), I've chosen Whitney. I've showered hatred upon Whitney for a while and cringe every time I see the commercials, but I've never actually watched an episode until now.

Source: Screencap
I'm going to assume that the episode I watched, "The Ex Box," was a fair representation of the show because two of the Hulu reviews mentioned that it was much better than the earlier episodes. "The Ex Box" was bad enough that I shudder to think what atrocities would lay in store if I were to turn to the pilot, but before I go further into that, I'll give a quick recap of the storylines.

 The episode featured three storylines. In the A story, Whitney finds a box filled with items that belonged to an ex of her boyfriend Alex and through a confrontation with him, discovers that he had actually been engaged to the aforementioned ex. After realizing that he treated the girl poorly, she forces him to return the box. In the B story, two girls who appear to be Whitney's friends have to learn to live with each other despite one of them's Type A personality. In the C story, some guy worried about seeing his ex after their recent break-up.

I didn't really enjoy any of these storylines. The A story perhaps could have been handled well on a better show, but with these characters it was just obnoxious. The B story never seemed to go much of anywhere, and the C story was hardly there at all.

Probably the worst aspect of the show was the characters. There was not even one character that I remotely liked. In fact, I'm not sure there was a character that I didn't actively hate. The actors didn't do the characters any favors either. Perhaps they just realize how bad the show is and just don't care, but their performances had little life in them. One of the only actors who put energy in her performance was the guest star playing Alex's ex, but that energy was channeled towards putting in a performance so annoying that she beat out Whitney as my least favorite character.

I also really didn't care for the relationship between the two main characters, Whitney and Alex. From what I could tell, their relationship largely consists of Whitney ranting about some minor issue while Alex throws in a few sarcastic comments about her. In their first scene together, the first genuine smile she gives him (she gives plenty of sarcastic ones before that) follows a comment he makes about wanting to dismember her. That totally sounds like a great relationship, right? There was a brief scene at the end where they actually seemed to kind of like each other, but even then, they didn't have a lot of chemistry.

Note the glee in her face upon hearing her boyfriend talking about dismembering her.
 Source: Screencap

In addition to unlikable characters, Whitney also had a lot of stale references. It was almost as if the writers picked up a People magazine from a couple of years ago, picked a few names at random, and then worked them in awkwardly. For example, there was a Heather Graham reference when Whitney finds a box of tube tops and scrunchies (I'm honestly not that knowledgeable about Heather Graham. So I suppose it's possible this joke went beyond critiquing her style, and I just didn't understand it.), and a David Spade reference about being a player or something. Whitney did manage to fit in one relevant remark about someone's life being like a movie that would feature Taylor Swift on its soundtrack. However, one reference that basically just acknowledges something that currently happens is just not that impressive when there are shows like Happy Endings that throw out clever, relevant references at lightning speed every week.

The references weren't the only stale aspect of this episode's writing; most of the jokes felt stale as well. I felt like the majority of the jokes had been stripped from other sitcoms with the humor completely removed. Without good comedic timing or stellar performances to help them out, the stale jokes seemed especially bad.

In addition to bad writing, Whitney also featured bad editing. Several of the scenes seemed to end in an awkward place. The actors would recite a few lines, and then the scene would be over without any real sense of completion. While I don't think it would improve the show, better editing would probably make the show at least look a bit more polished.

So how did the show measure up to my expectations?
Look, I know I've been pretty tough on "The Ex Box," but to be honest, it wasn't quite as bad as I expected it to be. It was, however, probably more not good than I thought it would be. I may have anticipated worse jokes than the show actually contained or more annoying storylines, but I expected that there would be at least some redeeming value to the show. I couldn't come up with one. I didn't enjoy any of the characters, the jokes, the plots, or even the editing. The whole episode was devoid of any charm or likability. Based on this episode, I'd say my unjustified dislike of the show has just been justified.

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