Scott D. Pierce: Grammer + Lawrence = one terrible sitcom

First Published      Last Updated Aug 04 2014 09:32 am

Take a pair of former sitcom stars, throw them together into a show that plays on two of the oldest TV tropes, and you end up with "Partners" — an instantly forgettable, largely laughless comedy.

It's sort of sad to see Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") and Martin Lawrence ("Martin") reduced to this.

"Partners" is the umpteenth show about attorneys; the umpteenth "Odd Couple."

Grammer stars as Allen Braddock, a mean-spirited version of Frasier Crane — an elitist, priggish, condescending snob. Allen is a lawyer devoid of legal ethics, which is why his father has just thrown him out of the family law firm.

"Truth and facts certainly have their place in society," Allen says in the first of two episodes that air Monday (10 and 10:30 p.m., FX). "But do they really have a place in a court of law? No."

Lawrence stars as Marcus Jackson, a highly ethical lawyer who is in the midst of a divorce and doing a terrible job of defending himself.

Allen offers to represent Marcus in that divorce if Marcus will take over a pile of pro bono cases a judge assigned to him. Allen makes this proposal in the courthouse men's room.

"Drumming up business in the men's room?" Marcus says. "Man, you must be desperate."

And then TV's Most Obnoxious Laughtrack hoots and hollers. As it does after seemingly every line delivered in the first couple episodes of "Partners." Even though the funniest lines are only vaguely amusing.

Weirdly enough, there's lots of talk of Marcus' estranged wife and Allen's much-younger second wife, but neither makes an appearance in the first two episodes. We get Marcus' sassy mother (Telma Hopkins) and daughter (Daniele Watts); Allen's spoiled stepdaughter (McKaley Miller); and the paralegal (Rory O'Malley) and investigator (Edi Patterson) who work for the law firm Allen and Marcus quickly end up sharing.

"Nothing says I made it halfway to the American dream like a storefront office," Allen says.

"Says the man who screwed up nepotism," Marcus replies.

That's not bad, but it never gets any funnier than that. Certainly not with the Jesus jokes in the first episode and the oral sex jokes in the second episode.

For five years, Grammer was the star of TV's best comedy. Sure, "Frasier" ran for 11 seasons (1993-2004), but even its worst episodes were better than most of the other sitcoms.

For five years (1992-97), Martin Lawrence starred in a really bad sitcom. Whereas "Frasier" was smart and funny, "Martin" was dumb and lame — but it did pretty well in the ratings for Fox for a couple of seasons before dropping off dramatically.

They will be remembered for those shows. They will not be remembered for "Partners." They should be grateful for that.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.