"Partners" (premieres Mon., Sept. 24, 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS) is basically the story of TV writing partners Max Mutchnick and David Kohan -- the guys behind "Will & Grace" -- with Michael Urie and David Krumholtz playing "them," with a twist.
I caught up with all four men of "Partners" to find out what they have planned for this multi-camera sitcom about two best friends and business partners, one gay and one straight, and their respective relationships outside of their own friendship. Also, for Mutchnick and Kohan, who have steered away from their particular brand of banter since those "Will & Grace" days, the biggest question was: What took so long to tell your own story?
"We had to find the right two guys to carry the series," Mutchnick said, referring to Urie and Krumholtz, who play Louis and Joe, respectively. "You know, where the gay guy is commercial and American and works and isn't just a stereotype -- not a kooky neighbor -- and a leading man that had his own style and sensibility and humor, and we found that in these two."
And in sitting down with all of them, two at a time, it was obvious that having Muthcnick and Kohan writing pretty much every episode and being on set to produce the show has already rubbed off on Urie and Krumholtz. Keep reading to see the dueling banter in action ...
On writing "themselves"
Kohan: "When we write, we're not thinking about ourselves. We're thinking about Michael Urie and David Krumholtz and what their chemistry and their dynamic is like."
Mutchnick: "I don't feel that way! I only look at it in terms of writing the thing that I would say."
Kohan: "Yes, but when you're writing scenes, you're not thinking of yourself doing that part ..."
Mutchnick: "I don't think you're being totally honest. We do the bulk of the writing ... you definitely will say no to something because it does not sound good to your ear or sound like something you would ever say."
Kohan: "I agree with that. All I'm saying is that when I think about scenes, I'm not thinking about me and Max being in them, I'm thinking of those guys and what that's going to feel like and sound like. It's not me because it wouldn't sit well on Krumholtz."
Mutchnick: "I feel much closer to Michael Urie in terms of a representation of me, and I feel like he is going for that a little bit more. David Krumholtz has a way of doing things that's not exactly in line with the way that David Kohan would do things. I look at Michael Urie and think he's just a prettier, younger, more TV-ready version of me. It's not an easy thing to be a charming gay lead on a television show in primetime and I think we have the guy that's going to carry that load.
It was really not easy to get into writing Bill Shatner and some son in a house in San Diego [for "S*%$ My Dad Says"] ... my connection to that was almos nil. I mean, you've gotta do your job and draw from what you can, but one of the joys of this job is you get to draw from your life."
On the pressure of basically playing their bosses
Krumholtz: "Well, I mean, it's loosely based on them. I think they want us to discover our own chemistry within what they're writing for us."
Urie: "I like having them around. There's plenty to draw on -- from Max moreso than David. David is a little more mild-mannered, but Max ... "
Krumholtz: "Their open arguments on set about how a scene is playing ... it's really fun to watch. They're terribly insulting to one another, they contradict the sh-- out of each other."
Urie: [Laughs.] "Yeah, that took a little while to learn."
Getting the chemistry right
Krumholtz: "We love each other. You know, you walk into a situation like this -- a co-lead situation -- and you worry that the other guy's gonna be a dick or you're not gonna have chemistry. It happens. It's happened to me. But in this case, we like each other and have fun."
Urie: "And we can share ideas. Some of the funniest things I do in the pilot were his ideas."
Krumholtz: "And vice versa. There's a very blunt language between the four of us -- it's great or it sucks."
Urie: "No one's being precious about anything."
TV's first major gay marriage?
Kohan: "You have this partnership, this sort of de-facto marriage, that's been going on for a really long time, and then there's the prospect of an actual marriage [between Joe and Ali, played by Sophia Bush]. How is that going to change things?"
Mutchnick: "I wouldn't mind seeing Wyatt [played by Brandon Routh] and Louis get engaged on the show this year, or even get married. I'd like a shot at writing that and doing a custom-made version of it. I just don't want to follow the company line -- the company being Gay, Incorporated. I want to do what would be right for Wyatt and Louis, and I think that would make for an interesting episode."
Marriage ... and then babies?
Krumholtz: "I think they should absolutely do it."
Urie: "Especially dueling weddings -- there's a lot of mileage there."
Krumholtz: "I don't think there's any point in creating this show if they're not eventually going to do the first gay television wedding."
Urie: "Would that be the first?"
Krumholtz: "It'd probably be the first between regular characters. But what I think would be really cool is if you guys get engaged or elope really quickly, then the issue is that I still haven't married Ali."
Urie: "I also -- and this is further down the road, if we're so lucky -- but I love the idea that David and Max's friends are kids in real life. It's so sweet! I would love to see that on the show."
Krumholtz: "Yeah, I've got to get Sophia Bush pregnant. On the show."
Mutchnick: "Joe finds out that his girlfriend had a romance with a very famous man, which she never told him about."
Kohan: "But he finds it out when he's moving her into his apartment, and it's not something he should've seen. So the question becomes: How can I raise this with her, because if I raise it, it incriminates me. So Louis has the idea to play Celebrity and put the person's name in there, and she's going to have to say something."
Mutchnick: "We're also writing an episode about who's the Simon and who's the Garfunkel. They both come to realize that they're both Simon and they're both Garfunkel."
Dream guest stars
Urie: "I want Judith Light to be on the show. She was on 'Ugly Betty' and she was also on another Max and David show. I just think she's got the perfect sensibility. Maybe as my mom ... I would love that."
Krumholtz: "I would love it if Bob Newhart played my dad. And then you just think that mother would have to be Patti LuPone -- it just makes sense."
Urie: "Patti LuPone was my mother on 'Ugly Betty'!"
Krumholtz: "Get her on then!"
On what they hope to accomplish with this show
Mutchnick: "Mostly, I just want people to laugh, and I want people to like Joe and Louis. I want to put that relationship, of a gay man and a straight man as best friends, out there and see if people relate. I have a feeling it's the strongest element of the show."
Kohan: "My hope is that, if I were an audience member, I would watch and say, 'I'd like to have that kind of a friendship.' Max helps me with my life a lot; Max helps me with my marriage."
Mutchnick: "And vice versa."
Kohan: "Yeah, and I would like to watch that."