Is it possible for complete opposites to peacefully co-exist in an office setting without chaos ensuing? What happens when a brief experiment could become something more permanent? That’s part of the premise behind FX’s new comedy “Partners,” which had two very different people joining forces to make a living. Sure, the premise has been done before, but the cast managed to provide some charm in the often stale material.
“Partners” followed two very different lawyers who ended up coming together professionally in an unexpected way. Allen Braddock (Kelsey Grammer) was the type of lawyer who loved his job, even though he took very little seriously. His lack of responsibility ended up getting him fired from his father’s law firm and blackballed him from getting hired anywhere else. Allen ended up crossing paths with Marcus Jackson (Martin Lawrence) who made a name for himself as a community activist, but he was being too generous in his divorce settlement. A judge thought that it would be wise that the two men should meet and find a way to help each other through their situations. After Allen realized that Marcus' soon-to-be ex-wife was taking advantage of him, he persuaded Marcus to make him his divorce lawyer to work out a much better settlement for him. It turned out that Allen also believed that Marcus' wife was also having an affair with someone very unexpected. With Allen desperate for employment, he persuaded Marcus to make him a partner for his law firm so that Marcus can do the cases that he wanted and Allen can draw in the wealthier clients to keep the firm going. Marcus decided that it would be a good idea, because he owned the whole building that also included his living quarters directly above the law firm. He lived with his mother Ruth Jackson (Telma Hopkins) and his daughter Laura (Daniele Watts), but he needed someone like Allen to get him into trouble whenever the time was right. At the firm, Allen and Marcus were supported by Marcus' assistant Michael (Rory O'Malley) who never seemed to be doing too much work. They also had Veronica (Edi Patterson) who was a private investigator for whenever they needed some important information. The firm also had to contend with Allen's step-daughter Lizzie (McKaley Miller) who was the typical spoiled rich girl that loved to get into trouble whenever necessary. Will Marcus and Allen continue to work together or will the arrangment be a temporary one?
In terms of questions, the show's biggest one involved whether it had the staying power to make it past its initial ten episode run, which FX is doing as a test before the network commits to any more. The network found this to be a successful format which it had done with "Anger Management." If this show is successful, another 90 more episodes will ordered just like they did for Charlie Sheen's show. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen whether this show has any true staying power, because the show has taken a little too long to find some sort of a groove. Of course, it also doesn't help that the show is also playing to some familiar comedic stereotypes that weren't always funny to begin with. The show was trying to be a sharper tongued "The Odd Couple," but the jokes often appeared to be tamer than they should on a network like FX where they tend to go for shock just as much as content. It also didn't help too much that each episode tended to poke a little too much fun at different class and racial stereotypes. Although, one recent episode did have a nice twist at the end of a rather stagnant racial profiling plot. Marcus and Allen were trying to browse through one of Allen's favorite suit stores, but the security guards were paying a little too much attention to Marcus than they should have been. When a watch went missing, they proceeded to search Marcus thinking that he was the obvious thief. It turned out that the true culprit was Allen who accidentally walked off with the expensive watch after he tried it on. In the latest episode, the guys went to Allen's school reunion where Marcus ended up being the toast of the town, while Allen couldn't even get someone to keep one of his business for more than a second before they threw it away behind his back. The latter episodes have also improved some because the supporting cast has been featured more and occasionally have their own plot going on amongst everything else. Let's hope that continues if the show does get renewed.
As for breakout performances, Hopkins and Miller led the pack by providing some needed comedic relief whenever it was necessary. Hopkins' Ruth designed her character to be the one who takes charge of a situation and could give advice just as easily to anyone. She had a strong rapport with Lawrence, but she seemed to have a stronger dynamic with Grammer's Allen that was demonstrated in one episode where Allen and Ruth got friendly why Allen was working on her living will. It was a nice change of pace to seeing the two characters get friendly in a way that made Lawrence's Marcus go crazy at the right comedic moment. Hopkins also had a strong on-screen connection with Miller's Lizzie that was only briefly explored when the two teamed up to clean out Ruth's poker buddies for money to go shopping. Hopefully, Miller and Hopkins will get to explore their on-screen dynamic a little more if the show does come back because it was interesting to see these two very different characters come together in an unexpected way. Miller, on the other hand, had the challenging task of providing substance to a character that didn't focus on it very often. She managed to convey a lot of genuine reactions whenever something outrageous was happening on-screen to Lizzie. Miller's strongest scene was when she was having a heart-to-heart with Grammer's Allen about her biological father and how he was never going to be the father that she wanted or deserved. It was a brief moment, but it was still memorable nonetheless. As for the leads, Lawrence worked well as straight man of the duo, while Grammer seemed to be still trying to find his footing as to how far he should push some of the plots. It remained to be seen whether Grammer will get the chance to find that out. Only time will tell if that will truly be the case.
"Partners" premiered on August 4th and airs Mondays at 9:00 PM on FX.
Verdict: Grammer and Lawrence provided some charm, but the show's flawed and familiar premise will likely lead to its undoing.
TV Score: 2 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)