You may not know Chris D’Elia by name. In fact, you may not know him by face, either. Unless you’re a frequent comedy club patron, the last time you would have seen the star on the rise was in TBS’ short-lived 1980s college comedy Glory Daze, and his super senior stoner Stankowski was so baked, scruffy, and glazed over he was barely recognizable as the same guy shaving in the mirror behind Whitney Cummings in ads for their new NBC sitcom. But D’Elia is a name we believe you should know; he is swift and smart, witty and charming. He deserves time to shine on television, and we fear that without some retooling he will only be dragged down by Whitney, not thrust forward into the spotlight.
As the pilot of Whitney stands (our full review of which you can read here), it is the titular character who gets the most attention, but we feel the show stands a better chance at longevity, not to mention creativity, if it allows D’Elia to take the reigns in a number of ways. Here is what we propose:
- Already D’Elia has layered his character with a sweetness and a sharpness that he can bring out on a moment’s notice. Allow him to explore both those sides. With a simple smile after a snarky remark, we see that his character truly does love Whitney but that he is comfortable enough with her to poke fun at her, jab her, drive her crazy. Exploring that will make the relationship feel real and three-dimensional.
- Currently, D’Elia’s character is basically just there to support Whitney herself. We see him come home from work at one point, so we know he has a job, and we hear a reference to another wedding he attended, so presumably he has friends, but right now he is there to react to the wacky things Whitney says and does. Even putting him in non-generic clothing would be a start towards allowing an actual, specific personality to shine through. Look at how much a tee-shirt collection informed the character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. Look at how much he could do with a beer bottle in Glory Daze. Give the guy an inch, and he’ll be able to pave the rest of the mile.
- Give D’Elia some friends! We see Whitney interact with, and lament to, her own core group when she is having issues or questions within the relationship. Everyone needs someone to bounce things off of, and even if the show wants to take the stereotypical approach that guys don’t talk about things that matter, we should at least see him hanging out with someone other than Whitney all of the time.
- But perhaps most importantly, D’Elia is not just a talking prop. He is a comedy writer in his own right and therefore has more to contribute than simply reading dialogue. Allow him to adlib and keep it loose on set. Or hell, bring him into the writer’s room! When he innately steps it up in the humor department, it will challenge everyone around him to step it up, as well, and the result will be something that you actually laugh with, instead of at. Or most likely, not at all.
Whitney airs on NBC on Thursday nights at 9:30pm.
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