Who better to have birthed the gorgeous but neurotic Whitney Cummings than "The O.C.'s" super-cool, swordfish-steak-grilling überdad Sandy Cohen and "Malcolm in the Middle's" frazzled, emotional tripwire mom Lois Wilkerson?
On Thursday night's holiday-themed episode of the freshman NBC comedy "Whitney," TV vets Peter Gallagher and Jane Kaczmarek will be making a special guest appearance as Whitney's combative parents.
“I play Whitney’s father, Vince,” explains Gallagher, who takes a break from his USA series "Covert Affairs" to stretch his comedy muscles in the episode titled "Christmas is Cummings." “In Whitney’s world view, all of the difficulties she has with men and with life in general stem from her terrible father –who I don’t think is as terrible as she remembers, but certainly not reliable, a bit of a con man, sort of a day late and a dollar short kind of guy, always with an angle. And it was an enormous amount of fun.”
“We have quite an antagonistic relationship,” adds Kaczmarek. “Whitney blames both of her parents for a lot of her colorful ways, let’s say. And as Candy, her mother, I have quite a bit of hostility towards [Vince]. Whitney is determined to keep her parents apart, because she doesn’t want to have a destroyed Christmas the way she had growing up when her parents were together, and mayhem ensues.”
Kaczmarek says that the sitcom incarnations of Whitney’s parents apparently aren’t far from Cummings’ real-life family. “They’re rather colorful sorts, as I understand,” she chuckles. “Her references to them are pretty bleak! Very funny, but as she says: she had this family and she’s gotten a television series out of it. She pretty much decided at a very early age that she was going to persevere and make lemonade out of the lemons that she was kind of born into. So Peter and I were very happy to be asked to portray them.”
For Gallagher, dropping into Whitney's Christmas special places a lot of burden on the young sitcom - it has to live up to the iconic hybrid holiday he helped usher into the lexicon during his time in Orange County.
“I like the Chrismukkah episode from ‘The O.C.,” says Gallagher, noting that fans reference it to him “all the time, especially on Twitter and Facebook and on the street and things like that. That sort of captured people’s fancy, I think. And I love the whole notion too of the togetherness that Chrismukkah suggests. Christmas and Hanukkah, together into one super-holiday gave people some delight. That was cool.”
Kaczmarek's TV Christmas memories are decidedly less hopeful, and much more chaotic.
“Christmas on ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ was always just that the disaster was bigger, always even more horrible than what daily life was,” she laughs. “I always remember the boys having fights with the ornaments. They were throwing Christmas ornaments like snowballs at each other and they were shattering. And there is a Christmas episode where it starts with Lois and another woman getting into a fight in the parking lot with their cars. And they start ramming each other’s cars until both of the cars are completely disabled.”
In other words, Whitney had better be prepared for anything.
"Whitney" airs Thursday nights at 9:30 PM ET on NBC