BWW Review: Week of January 14 in Comedy Television!

BWW Review: Week of January 14 in Comedy Television!

The month-long festival of mirth and joy we've come to call "The Holidays" has tragically come to an end, plunging us head first into the soul-sucking reality of "the rest of winter." Days are short. It's freezing. Our candy cane supplies are running low and the seasonal affective disorder is creeping around a corner, waiting to strike if it hasn't struck already.

Fortunately, "the rest of winter" means a return to our favorite shows--some coming back midseason, others beginning a completely new one. Here's a quick recap of some of this week's best and brightest scripted comedies. Spoilers abound.

Last Sunday, The Simpsons gave us a shockingly strong episode for a show that has been showing its age for the past twenty years. Lisa meets Sam, one of those rare people Lisa's age who shares her passion for music, art, and all things cultured. She gets to know Sam's family, including a mother played by Broadway-legend-slash-guest-star Patti Lupone, and starts to see what life could be like in a wealthy, sophisticated family. In the end, she realizes it's just fine to be a Simpson. For years, THE SIMPSONS has relied heavily on celebrity guest stars and fantastical situations to differentiate itself from earlier seasons and try its best to remain fresh and original. Usually, though, the freshest episodes of THE SIMPSONS rely simply on a plausible situation and a heartwarming conclusion.

The Goldbergs took us back to nineteen-eighty-something in the wake of Lainey (AJ Michalka)'s departure. Michalka left the show to star in the 90s-centric Goldbergs spin off Schooled, but, here in the 80s, Barry and Erica are mourning her loss. In Murray's quest to cheer them up with his patented "stuff, sandwiches, songs, and Sixers," the family's stereo gets stuck and plays Rupert Holmes's Pina Colada Song over and over and over in a manner befitting nobody but John Mulaney at the Salt and Pepper Diner. Emotions run high and Murray confesses that he, too, is sad that Lainey is gone--she was a daughter to him, after all. Meanwhile, Adam and friends try desperately to get out of the state-mandated Mile Run and end up alienating their gym teacher, Coach Mellor (Bryan Callen, who also left to join Schooled). They discover how much it really means to have a teacher who believes in you, even if they don't necessarily believe you can run a decent mile. This season of The Goldbergs has sort of tended towards saccharine-sweet, but its genuine heart keeps it watchable week by week.

On Single Parents, we finally meet Will (Taran Killam)'s elusive ex-wife Mia (Killam's former SNL co-star Vanessa Bayer), and she's a really, really good person. She wins over the gang by giving them gifts from her volunteer work in Ghana. She lets their daughter, Sophie (the excellent Marlow Barkley), do and eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants. This all comes to a head at Sophie's hilarious, BBC old lady drama-themed birthday party--Sophie eats a whole lot of sugar in a very short period of time and Mia, after years of absence, has no idea how to calm her down. The parents have a frank conversation about their role as co-parents and everything seems to work out fine--until, at a full-family gathering planned by Sophie, Will and Mia share a photo booth kiss. Will this last? How could this last? What does this mean for Will's relationship with Angie (Leighton Meester), which seemed up until now to be moving in a romantic direction? I guess we'll see. This show is a hidden gem; the kids are all great, they're setting up great running gags (Mystery Senorita is hilarious), and any cast that includes Brad Garrett is a cast I want to watch week to week.

Thursday nights on NBC are too good, aren't they? Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back, thank God, and this week we dove into a past we never really thought we'd get to explore. The question at hand: is it possible that, at one point, the notoriously lazy, gross, and desk-bound Hitchcock and Scully were... good cops? We answer that in a hilarious 30 minutes, punctuated by flashbacks to the detectives' big mafia case in the mid-eighties (which the new police commissioner insists on revisiting, realistically to punish Captain Holt for questioning his old-school, dangerous methods). First of all, young Hitchcock and Scully are HOT. Second of all, it's nice to see them as an effective, competent duo who really cared about the work they were doing. They still do, it seems--they go and check on the wife of the mob boss they brought in at work once a week to make sure she's okay and not whacked. The twist is the best part--we know that Hitchcock and Scully spend a lot of their non-work time eating at a delightful little restaurant called WingSluts, but we didn't know that WingSluts was the entire reason for their physical and mental deterioration until now. There's a B plot in this episode, with Amy's squad pitted against the detectives of the 99, but it's sort of tacked on and not all that important. Regardless, BROOKLYN NINE-NINE is consistently the happiest half hour of my week, and I can't be more thankful that the fans saved it from an untimely death.

Speaking of happiest half hours of the week, The Good Place was on! We picked up right where we left off, as usual, in the IHOP, where The Judge (the amazing Maya Rudolph who deserves every award for this guest spot every time she does it) meets up with the afterlife fugitives for the first time in a while. Michael tells her the sad truth--that living on Earth has become too complicated for anybody to ever make it into the Good Place--and that there needs to be some kind of afterlife reform so well-intentioned people can resist being tortured for all eternity. Michael and Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson, who is always the funniest person in any scene) begrudgingly devise a plan to recreate the conditions of Michael's Fake Good Place in Mindy St. Claire's backyard to see if it's true that human beings that are not our four leads can improve themselves. Returning to Mindy's house means we get to see Derek, Janet's self-made boyfriend played by Jason Mantzoukas, a man with impeccable comic timing and facial hair. Derek and his new, more sophisticated personality intimidates Jason, who's just sort of started catching feelings for Janet again. In the end, Michael prepares to greet his new test subject and has a panic attack, repeating over and over that he can't do it, that it's not going to work, leaving Eleanor responsible for welcoming this new guy into the afterlife. THE GOOD PLACE is consistently the smartest and funniest show on TV--it is at moments high concept, low-brow, and brilliant in its execution of jokes and plot-forwarding. I can't wait to see what happens next.

The final season of Crazy Ex Girlfriend is chugging along, and seems to have reached some kind of conclusion--but I and you know the show well enough to fully believe that. It was nice to have a bit of a Paula-centric episode after a few weeks of solely focusing on Rebecca and her ex-lovers. She just graduated from law school! I'm so proud of her! She doesn't want to draw too much attention to herself, so she hosts a game night where she can eventually tell the people closest to her about her huge accomplishment. Rebecca can't be there--she's promised to babysit Hebby, her biological offspring, for Darryl while Darryl goes on a date. It seems like it's going to be easy at first--the baby is asleep, and Rebecca is free to do anything but think about her progeny. But, after responding to Greg (now played by Skylar Astin, who is so adorable I fully buy him as New Greg)'s urgent "we need to talk" text, Hebby starts to wake up and act up. Rebecca doesn't know what to do--she gets upset with herself and realizes the reason she's avoided spending time with Hebby is because she's afraid of ruining her, like she's afraid of ruining everybody around her. Greg is able to calm the baby down and he and Rebecca talk frankly about their feelings. Rebecca is hesitant to pursue them at first, recognizing that she's spiraling and not in a good place. But that recognition helps fuel her forward--sometimes, admitting and acknowledging it is the first step. She and Greg hook up while Hebby sleeps soundly. At game night, Nathaniel and Josh are forced to play nice, and sing a too-true song about men expressing their feelings through sports metaphor. Valencia and Hector have a nice moment where they realize that mutual intimidation has not been kind to them over the course of knowing each other. Once it's revealed that the party is to celebrate Paula's graduation, Nathaniel texts Rebecca and tells her she needs to be there. She delivers--herself and a cake, and the news of her new, consummated relationship with Greg. Nathaniel overhears and is devastated. This can't be the be-all-end-all of Rebecca's relationships--we have a few episodes to go until the finale, where she will maybe decide once and for all who she's meant to be with; and maybe she won't. Regardless, I'll hate to see her go. Rebecca and her friends have made me happy for the past four years, and I wish we had more time with them.

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From This Author Sarah Jae Leiber

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