Once again, mid-week seems a good time to offer brief thoughts on shows I’ve seen but don’t have a whole post’s worth of things to say about. Today, in order, quick reviews of “Up All Night,” “Suburgatory” and “Happy Endings,” coming up just as soon as I have full spa access for my birth…
With “Up All Night,” I know there’s a lot of pressure for a new show to put its best foot forward and do attention-getting episodes early, rather than saving them for a later date that might be more appropriate but that also might not exist if you don’t do well in the ratings. That said, episode 6 seems way, way too soon to play the “flashback to Amy’s birth” card. We’re still just getting to know Chris and Reagan as beleaguered parents – and both the opening title sequence and the dialogue has given us a pretty good idea of what they were like before Amy came along – so it seemed both redundant and abrupt to go there now. Plus, even more than the usual parenting issues the two deal with, childbirth is just so, so, so incredibly familiar as a sitcom device. This was actually a decent example of it – I enjoyed their horror at the birthing video (“It’s like hair coming out of hair!”), Reagan singing “Lightning Crashes,” Chris having his come-to-Amy moment – but on the whole I’ve seen this episode too often before, and I feel like the show has to this point managed to tell familiar stories without having them feel like the umpteenth variation on a theme. The strongest part of the episode, strangely, was Missy, in that she’s a character who had made almost no impression on me to this point. She seems a bit too much like Kenneth from “30 Rock” (repressed, happy but timid assistant who’s willing to be the other characters’ punching bag), but at least now I feel like I know who she is and where she fits in the workplace side of the show.
Speaking of early episodes, it sure felt like last night’s “Suburgatory” was intended to be the second or third episode, in that Tessa’s still acting like they just got there, there’s a lot of restatement of the premise and the conflicts from the pilot. The only thing that had me doubting that theory even for a second is that Tessa was eating lunch with Malik (whom she wouldn’t befriend until last week’s episode), but they don’t actually talk, and it could just be her sitting next to a fellow outcast. This happens sometimes, where networks show episodes out of order in order to frontload the strongest ones and get people hooked. The irony, of course, is that the weak ones often come as a result of another bit of network meddling in the whole “repeat the pilot 6 times” theory. But regardless of when it was originally intended to air, this was definitely the weakest episode so far, with very little Tessa/George interaction and too much sledgehammering of the ways in which the suburbs are strange and disturbing and not at all like city life.
Funny “Happy Endings” last night, particularly the Max/Brad subplot, which not only featured the show’s strongest comedy duo but brought in the deadpan awesomeness of Larry Wilmore as Brad’s sloppy boss. I remember that one of the reasons I initially didn’t like the show was that most of the characters were pretty awful people, both individually and to each other, and the show didn’t seem to recognize that. As it’s gone on, though, the show has embraced that, acknowledging early and often that they’re a tough room, both to each other and especially to outsiders, and I liked seeing the tables turn when Dave’s hot-but-unbearable new girlfriend went down the line crushing everybody’s spirit until Penny just begged her to stop before her.
I only got a few minutes into last night’s “Modern Family” (long enough to hear Gloria say “Pooberty,” which I doubt the rest of the episode would have topped) and won’t have time to finish it for a while due to other deadlines, but feel free to discuss that one too.
What did everybody else think?