Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Preview: CBS' Partners

Partners stars (l-r):
Brandon Routh, Michael Urie,
David Krumholtz, Sophia Bush

By David Kohan’s estimation, he and Max Mutchnick have been friends for over 35 years, and writing partners for more than 20.  Such a multi-purpose relationship can have its challenges, but Kohan and Mutchnick’s has yielded impressive results; in 1998, drawing on Max’s own real-life experiences, the creative duo brought us TV’s first gay leading man in the landmark sitcom Will & Grace.

Now, much like that long-running hit was the first to capture the age-old relationship between a gay man and his devoted best galpal, the writers’ new, equally autobiographical comedy Partners corners the market on friendship between two men of differing sexual orientations.

Of course, as Kohan notes, their real-life relationship – and thus the one between their Partners alter egos Louis (Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie) and Joe (Numb3rs’ David Krumholtz) – can be muddied by much more than just that one superficial distinction.  “The fact is, our sensibilities about everything are really different.” True to stereotype, Kohan admits, he loves sports, whereas Mutchnick’s tastes run more towards clothes and design.  But their true spark comes more from differences in temperament.  “Max has never met a boundary that he didn’t want to smash, and I deal with my resentment passive-aggressively.  It makes for an interesting contrast.  And so the fact that one of us is straight and one is gay is part of our deal, but it’s not the essential factor.”

As the writer explains, he and Mutchnick were motivated to turn the mirror on themselves in recent years, as they have suddenly found themselves seriously romantically involved with other people.  “For us, it raised a lot of questions about what makes for a great partnership,” Kohan says.  “Where are the pressures?  What are the best forms of communication?  What are the lies that we tell each other?  What are the truths that we tell each other?  And where do the conflicts arise?”  In parsing all of this out in their own real lives, “we realized this seemed like a rich, fertile area for comedy.”

In all, Partners depicts the dynamics of three relationships -- not just between New York architectural design firm partners Louis and Joe, but also those of Louis and his nurse boyfriend Wyatt (Brandon Routh) and of Joe and his now-fiancée Ali (Sophia Bush) – and shows how the multiple couplings both cross-pollenate and complicate.  As meddlesome Louis, “I get to be Max Mutchnick,” enthuses Urie.  The part, he was pleased to discover, “comes with a lot of inspiration, because these two guys, in their real-life dynamic together, are so entertaining.”

“It’ll be interesting to mine their relationship further as the show goes forward, because they put on a show,” Krumholtz agrees.  “Max and David don’t know it -- or maybe they do -- but their working relationship is very out there for everyone to see, and it’s hilarious.  It’s really just a matter of capturing it on paper, and there’s a lot more there.  I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface with them yet.”

Indeed, Kohan says the nicest surprise so far for him has been to witness how Urie and Krumholtz effortlessly come off as bickering old friends.  But neither actor is surprised by the instant chemistry.  “Any great bromance I’ve ever had is with someone who makes me laugh,” Urie says.  And, Krumholtz adds, “We have the same head for funny.”

Premieres Monday, September 24
8:30 PM Eastern / 7:30 PM Central

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