For Whitney Cummings, this is the big week. Tonight, CBS "2 Broke Girls" (which she co-created and co-produces) debuts; on Thursday, "Whitney" (which she created and stars in) debuts. The former is terrific, the latter is above average. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Every now and then, TV comedy needs a
fresh spark. Now it has Whitney Cummings – doubly.
“She's smart, she's incredibly
ambitious,” said Michael Patrick King, who created CBS' “2 Broke
Girls” with her. “She … thinks like a writer and writes really
hard jokes like a stand-up (comic).”
And she has an approach that can easily
be turned into a TV character. “Whitney, in her personality, is
such a ball of energy that she sometimes can take things to the
extreme,” said Betsy Thomas, the showrunner of NBC's “Whitney.”
Cummings needs that energy, now that
she's working on:
– “2 Broke Girls,” Mondays on
CBS. She's co-creator and one of the producers.
– “Whitney,” Thursdays on NBC.
She created it and plays the central character.
Those are two of the year's 10 new
comedies, one (“2 Broke Girls”) getting raves from critics. This
is a big deal for someone who grew up (in the Washington, D.C., area)
during TV comedy's golden age.
“Thursday nights on NBC – which is
what I grew up with – has been such a big part of inspiring me,”
said Cummings, 29. “You know: 'Mad About You' and 'Seinfeld' and
'The Cosby Show.'”.
Back then, she found a book by the “Mad
About You” creator-star.
“I was at a flea market when I was
like 12 or 13, and I came across a book called 'Couplehood,' by Paul
Reiser,” Cummings said. “I read it and … that was my first
introduction to what comedy is.”
She savored female-based comedies,
including “Roseanne” and “Sex and the City,” but also
followed academia. Cummings graduated in three years, magna cum
laude, from the University of Pennsylvania.
Next came Los Angeles, with dreams of
being an actress. She did get some roles, but the key was being hired
by “Punk'd,” the practical-joke show on MTV.
“A lot of comedians are on that show,
and it got into my head the idea of doing stand-up,” Cummings said.
“And … MySpace was the thing, before it was just for porn stars
and pedophiles …. I started MySpacing people who had (stand-up
comedy) shows … getting as much stage time” as possible.
She prospered, did some Comedy Central
work, then got two breaks last year: NBC hired her to write the pilot
script that became “Whitney”; also, King was looking for a
co-writer for his show.
“I wanted it to be as contemporary
and as edgy as I believe two broke girls would be today,” he said.
So Cummings was called in for an
interview, creating one problem: King's previous show, “Sex and the
City,” was known for its upscale fashions.
“The first thing I thought wasn't,
like, 'Maybe I should prepare some ideas for this,'” she said.
“It was, like, 'What am I going to
wear?' So I went and bought $800 Christian Louboutin shoes, which I
was planning on returning the next day, but I sweated through them,
so I couldn't. I was so nervous and made a complete idiot of myself.”
Still, she did well enough to get a
second interview and the job. Soon, King was telling her that the
show would have two waitresses – one blonde, one brunette – in
“She said, 'And of course, Blonde is
homeless with a horse,'” he recalled. It was the image that
propelled “2 Broke Girls” forward.
Now Cummings spends her days at
“Whitney,” playing someone a lot like herself – young, living
with a boyfriend, ball of energy, takes things too far. Then she uses
that energy: “I'm able to get out at, like, 5:30, 6 (p.m.) and get
home and read all the notes and talk to Michael and read their
scripts and stuff.”
In an era of joblessness, she savors
overemployment, while propelling a comedy comeback.
– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.
Mondays, CBS; but debut (Sept. 19) is 9:31 p.m.
– “Whitney,” 9:30 p.m. Thursdays,
NBC, debuting Sept. 22; that episode then repeats at 8:30 p.m. Friday
on NBC; 12:30 p.m. Sunday on Bravo; 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday on