"I think we just need to accept the fact that there are four people at this table, but three couples."
So says Ali (Sophia Bush), summing up Partners' premise in the pilot.
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Premiering Monday (8:30/7:30c, CBS), the comedy is David Kohan and Max Mutchnick's semi-autobiographical, bromantic spin on their previous show Will & Grace. Joe (David Krumholtz), who's straight, and Louis (Michael Urie), who's gay, are lifelong BFFs and business partners at an architect firm. They each have a significant other (Joe with Ali and Louis with Brandon Routh's Wyatt), but the group dynamic is complicated after Joe proposes — not to mention, after Louis, unaware of the happy news, assumes Joe had dumped Ali instead like he was originally planning. (In typical sitcom form, Louis cleans up his mess.)
Here's all you need to know about this four-cornered love triangle and what you can expect this season.
Joe and Louis
Status: BFFs for 25 years and business partners
Relationship in a nutshell: Think Will and Jack from Will & Grace. Joe is the even-keeled, actual straight guy whose patience is continually tested by Louis' impulsive, sometimes obnoxious antics. "Louis is a sh-- -stirrer," Urie tells TVGuide.com. "He acts before he thinks, he is self-centered, but he's not malicious. He just loves life and loves that he gets to work with his best friend." And why does Joe put up with him? "Louis means well," even if it's not apparent in the moment, according to Krumholtz. "He's always got Joe's back. They have each other's backs."
Time management: Doing 9-to-5 with Joe isn't enough for Louis though. While he's a catalyst in getting Ali and Joe re-engaged, he can't handle his demoted status afterward. "Louis thought he'd be Joe's wingman for life and he quickly realizes that he's no longer that," Urie says. "So he becomes a lot of things: hurt, angered, incensed, manipulative, vengeful." That doesn't mean there's any resentment between Ali and Louis, who take yoga together. "It's almost a sibling relationship where there's this inherent rivalry," Bush says, "but comes from a really heartfelt place." Urie adds: "They're totally friends. Any issue that arises is less about the dynamics of the relationship and more about time and status with Joe. That's all Louis cares about!"
Blasts from the past: The pilot opens with flashbacks of the duo as kids, in which Louis comes off as the more mature one, and that won't be the last you'll see of lil' Joe and Louis. "Those flashbacks will be the prologue to every episode," Urie says. "There's a tie-in between those and what's happening in the episode. Sometimes they're really quick and funny and sometimes they're really touching, but it's a great device to capture their friendship."
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Joe and Ali
Relationship in a nutshell: The average Joe (no pun intended) who landed the hot girl. Of all the pairings, this one is the youngest, with the two having only been together for a year, but Bush believes it will become clear in future episodes that Joe and Ali are meant to be. "It's not some schmaltzy, over-the-top relationship," she says. "They're both smart, witty and make each other laugh. Joe lets her stand on her own in her career because he believes in her, but he also supports her when she needs it and gives her a shoulder to cry on. They're each other's biggest champions."
Three's a crowd: Joe and Louis have 24 years in their relationship on Joe and Ali, but Bush insists that doesn't bother Ali. "There's no way she can compete with that, but sometimes she finds out that Louis knows things that she wishes Joe wouldn't share and would just keep for them." What she is bothered by is the fact that Louis has a key to Joe's apartment after Louis walks in on her in her underwear one morning. "He's the only guy in America that isn't excited about that," Urie laughs. "She's terrified that he's walked in and he is terrified that she is using Vaseline on her elbows."
No wedding bells yet: Don't expect the couple to walk down the aisle soon or even get knee-deep into wedding planning. "Nobody's allowed to enjoy the happiness that they have in the present. I think it's nice we're giving them the space to be engaged and to realize what it means," Bush says. "Whose apartment do you move into? What stuff are you gonna throw out? There's hilarity that ensues and that's something that we don't wanna rush through. I don't even think any of us are thinking about the wedding yet."
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Louis and Wyatt
Status: Dating for six years
Relationship in a nutshell: Opposites attract. Naïve and good-natured, Wyatt is a Mennonite nurse (or a "Jewish doctor," as Louis tells people) whose low-key personality balances out not only Louis, but Joe and Ali too. "He's the grounding force," Routh says. "When everyone else overreacts, Wyatt's calm and collected. He centers Louis. And for Wyatt, Louis gives him some excitement and challenges him a bit." Wyatt hasn't always been the moral compass, so to speak: He was a club-hopping alcoholic model back in the day and cleaned up his act after meeting Louis.
The fourth wheel? With Louis "going off the deep end," as Urie says, after Joe and Ali's engagement, Wyatt seems like the odd man out sometimes. "We touch on it a bit in one episode," Routh says. "Louis says Joe is family, and Wyatt questions, 'Well, if Joe is family, what are we? What is family? Is it friends? Is it relationships? Is it all of us as friends? Can we be a family?'" Still, Wyatt is close with both Joe and Ali, to whom he serves as what Bush calls "her spirit guide." "Wyatt and Ali are the outsiders to Joe and Louis, so that's a common ground for them," Routh says. "And because he's been with Louis longer, he can tell her, 'Oh, they do this a lot.' I think they'll get even closer as we go on."
A very Mennonite Thanksgiving: Wyatt will get the spotlight in the Thanksgiving episode when the foursome visits Wyatt's family and he comes out. "As not only gay, but vegan," Routh says. "I hear-tell that the whole vegan thing is almost worse for them!"
Check out an exclusive clip and the opening titles below.
Partners premieres Monday at 8:30/7:30c on CBS.