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Let's meet Whitney Cummings (shall we?)

Executive Producer Whitney Cummings speaks during the 'Whitney'

Executive Producer Whitney Cummings speaks during the 'Whitney' panel during the NBC Universal portion of the 2011 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Aug. 1, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Who is Whitney Cummings?

Why should we care? 

She's a not-quite-well-known-and-if-we're-being-honest-not-well-known-at-all comedian who has been dubbed the "It Girl" of 2011 by NBC chief Bob Greenblatt, who has cast her in maybe his highest-profile new comedy, "Whitney."

A low-profile star in a high-profile show? Hey, it's NBC. They're trying. Cummings is also in the CBS new season series, "Two Broke Girls" -- a rarity in TV terms, in which the lead of one network show has a role in another show on another network. Has this happened before? Honest answer: I'm not sure, but it must have.

Point is, Cummings is suddenly a very big deal. Yes, she's certainly been around a while (Comedy Central roast fixture), and is a "name" but just not a big one, yet. Cummings -- a statuesque brunette with an effortlessly pleasing personality, if yesterday's appearance at the Television Critics Association meeting was representative -- plays a girlfriend to a character played by Chris D'Elia. You've seen D'Elia, doubtless, in a few forgotten series, like "Glory Daze," and like Cummings, came up through the L.A. stand-up circuit (where both in fact met.) His dad is also Bill D'Elia, a very well-known TV producer.

I'll pass on giving you a quick review of "Whitney" except to say: I can see what NBC saw in her. There is plenty of there there, although maybe the better word is "potential," which she obviously has.

What's peculiar about "Whitney" -- and the reason you will read negative reviews about this fall -- is that it's an extremely rare multi-cam sitcom; NBC eschewed those under previous entertainment regimes in favor of the irony-writ-large single cam'ers without a laugh track or live audience.  But audiences tend to love these sorts of shows, and one reason why "Two and a half Men" has been TV's best-loved comedy for years. 

Cummings yesterday told critics the multi-cam live audience show is " the best format for stand-up comedians. It made the most sense for us . . . I think our relationship with the audience is something you can tell we're comfortable with."

Cummings is very bright -- a magna cum laude grad from the U of Pennsylvania who told critics yesterday she wanted to become a journalist until Hollywood and the bright lights beckoned. Below, a March appearance on "Tonight Show:" 

 

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