Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence make a welcome return to the small screen in the new sitcom Partners which premiers Monday on FX at 9pm with a second episode following immediately afterwards at 9.30. The two play Chicago lawyers Allen Braddock (Grammer) and Marcus Jackson (Lawrence) who through a set of circumstances are thrown together to form a new legal team that attempts to balance financial success with ethical action. There’s no surprise that Grammer plays the high-end elitist attorney that has been dismissed from his father’s firm while Lawrence is the more down-to-home man of the people. Blatant stereotyping it may be, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny and the two certainly have impressive track records.

Grammer, of course, is well regarded for his 20-year role as Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers and Frasier. I must admit to have never being much of a fan of the show or the character on Cheers, but it grew on me immensely when paired with David Hyde Pierce as his brother Niles for the spin-off. A lot of that had to do with the brilliance of not only Grammer and Hyde Pierce, but also John Mahoney, Jane Leeves and Peri Gilpin as Martin Crane, Daphne Moon and Roz Doyle respectively.

Moreover Grammer was the star of Down Periscope, one of the more underrated comedies of the 90’s that remains a firm favorite of mine when I want to watch a light, but highly enjoyable film. Rob Schneider, Lauren Holly, Harry Dean Stanton, Bruce Dern, William H. Macy and Rip Torn co-starred in the movie that was notable for each and every actor in the production all hitting their marks superbly. Ken Hudson Campbell, Toby Huss, Harland Williams and Bradford Tatum in particular stood out and I still find it peculiar that the Naval comedy isn’t more widely appreciated.

Lawrence has not been a regular on television since the highly successful Fox sitcom Martin that ran from 1992-97. The actor transitioned into the movies with some notable hits including Bad Boys and its sequel which were both commercial and critical hits while the Big Momma franchise is a classic example of the dichotomy that can occur between the movie-going public and the critics. Here the recently divorced character of Jackson has to deal with both his mother and daughter, played by Telma Hopkins and Daniele Watts respectively while working to have his good ways rub off on the ethically challenged Braddock.

Partners has received a 10 episode order and the show will be broadcast in two episode blocks over the next five weeks with the promise of a 90 show commitment from the network should the ratings justify the extension. Given the current climate where viewers have a tendency to want to blitz watch shows the presenting of episodes back to back seems to make sense when grabbing a quick early audience is paramount.

Two quality performers and a nice set-up that gives the characters the opportunity to play off of each other is an excellent start. The question now will be whether the writing and charisma between the two leads strikes a chord to grab enough attention over the initial five-week run. It would be nice to have both Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence back on the box.

– Wallace Poulter

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