As I’ve said, being at press tour limits my ability to keep up with current TV, both because I’m covering the tour round the clock and because I don’t have a DVR here. But I had a chance to see last night’s “Suburgatory” and “Happy Endings” and have a few thoughts on them – after which you all can use this to comment on any of the Wednesday comedies (even “Whitney”) – coming up just as soon as I share a birthday with Hitler and Carmen Electra…
Bill Lawrence’s plan to have every “Cougar Town” actor guest star on other sitcoms to keep their faces out there during the long hiatus (and if you haven’t read my interview with Lawrence’s partner Kevin Biegel, you really should) went from background gag to prominent plot driver on last night’s “Suburgatory.” I’m often very wary of comedies that build stories out of two characters having a mutual misunderstanding, but I thought the undercover-narc/closeted-gay confusion was played cleverly enough for it to work, especially since the show made by far its best use of Rex Lee to date. (“Heidi, I love you. I love being heterosexual with you. But if you’re not feeling it, just let me know so I can find another woman I can be heterosexual with.”) Lisa deciding to dress like a guy to win Josh’s affections was maybe a little out there, but overall that story was a winner. (Not a lot of Dalia, but she had one of her best burns when she responded to Josh’s insult with, “Oh, wow: logic.”)
George viewing everything Dallas did as sexually suggestive, meanwhile, felt a bit much, though I’ll admit to being a sucker for a good melon joke, and they did set it up at the beginning with Noah saying that that’s just how she eats everything. And it wound up tying together well with the Tessa’s malfunctioning gaydar. Sometimes, I can be appeased by good structure.
In fact, I would say I found “Suburgatory” more satisfying overall than last night’s “Happy Endings,” even though I laughed more at the latter than the former. With its rapid-fire approach to humor, “Happy Endings” is now at the point that “30 Rock” reached where even the episodes that don’t work as a whole still have a good enough joke batting average that I get enjoyment out of them, anyway. In this case, the standout was pretty much anything to do with Alex, whether it was the racist parrot or her eating Chinese food and complaining how hard it is to be pretty. They’ve really done wonders with that character this season, and it no longer feels like they’re working around Elisha Cuthbert; instead, Elisha Cuthbert is genuinely funny.
That said, the “Rear Window” meets “The Wire”(*) storyline seemed silly without being clever (“Happy Endings” has largely managed to be stupid and smart simultaneously), and though I enjoyed watching Dave and Big Dave do their overly dramatic bits (their intro, showing the Egg Bagel-y Jr. to Ed Begley Jr.), Dave pouting over his dad and Penny’s mom being together dragged. Where the show has figured out Alex, Dave remains very much a work in progress, and stories revolving around him as a character – as opposed to him as a sight gag and/or victim of the others – haven’t been my favorites this season.
(*) Like I said, I didn’t get a chance to see “The Middle” or “Modern Family,” but I was amused that both of the ABC comedies I watched had very similar jokes about “The Wire” last night (and that the “Happy Endings” joke eventually acknowledged that their situation was nothing like “The Wire,” which Max hadn’t seen. And weirdly on an episode of “Suburgatory” that didn’t feature Maestro Harrell.
What did everybody else think? And, like I said, feel free to fire away with thoughts on “Modern Family,” “The Middle” and/or “Whitney” if the spirit moves you.