BWW Review: Week of January 20 in Comedy Television!
This week in comedy pulled all the stops--original, emotionally effective episodes abounded on many of the major networks. Love was tested, hearts were broken, romantic comedy tropes were turned on their head. Oh, and there were a lot of laughs. That too.
The Goldbergs centered this week's episode around two slightly-lesser-explored relationships on the show--Murray's with BARRY and Beverly's with Erica. Murray and BARRY were desperately trying to get BARRY into the college of his choice, one he literally chose at random when Murray opened a book. In order to achieve his (read: Murray's) dreams, BARRY goes through an elaborate process of resume-building (read: lying elaborately on his resume). Of course, things backfire. Barry's college interview goes sour when it's immediately obvious that his resume is garbage. We end on a high note, though; BARRY writes an honest college essay about the last year--about Lainey, the engagement, and her departure. That's enough for Murray--he's proud of BARRY for eventually sticking with and being his authentic self. Meanwhile, Beverly investigates what a future career as a lawyer could look like--she's always saying she could have been a lawyer, after all. Erica is insistent on showing her mother her true potential, which is a sweet and effective way of telling her how much she loves her. Beverly decides not to go into law after all, but insists that Erica continue to follow her own dreams.
On Single Parents, Will tries to navigate his new/old relationship with his ex-wife Mia, who, as it turns out is not his ex wife after all due to a clerical error on their DIVORCE forms. Because they've seemingly rekindled their romance, Will decides to hold on to the faulty DIVORCE papers to see how things will play out. This makes the rest of the group angry--particularly Angie, who threatens to (and eventually does) remove Will from the babysitting scheduling grid. If he's going to be with Mia, he can't be a member of their group anymore--single parents only and all that. They replace him with Dr. Mark, a recently divorced dermatologist who has been begging them to accept him for months. Poppy, as it turns out, is sort of into Dr. Mark--and Douglas isn't happy about it. After he "forbids" her from seeing him, she pursues him even more and more hardcore. In the end, Will and Mia's differences turn out to be irreconcilable. He's let back onto the grid and celebrates his found family. There are some sweet moments between Will and Angie in this episode--and even Poppy and Douglas. What's going on there?! Will the SINGLE PARENTS break their own rules?! It seems we'll find out in due time.
After literally going back in time in last week's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this week showed us a figurative time warp, if that's a thing. I'm a sucker for high-school-reunion episodes, so going back to Gina and Jake's not-so-glory days was so much of a treat. Jake and Amy go a little bit undercover to find out who in Jake's high school class spread a rumor about him being a "Tattler" that ruined his senior year. In all their looking, they fail to consider maybe the most obvious choice--Gina Linetti herself, who was apparently concerned that the people Jake had been hanging out with were bad for him. They have one of the absolute sweetest conversations in the history of the show, where Jake is frank with Gina about her potential. She can do more if she is not tied down to the Nine-Nine--this is something we've all known for years, but maybe no one has ever mentioned it to Gina before. It's particularly sweet when you know that actors Andy Samberg and Chelsea Peretti have been friends since childhood, and when you know that Gina will depart the show next week. I'm not ready for those waterworks, but they're sure to come. (The B-plot of this episode concerns Holt, Terry, Scully, and Hitchcock participating in a ridiculous radio CONTEST where they have to identify an unidentifiable sound. It's very adorable).
Also, my life is over because The Good Place had its season finale this week. We left the Soul Squad in the new, fake Good Place neighborhood, with Michael having a panic attack on the floor and Eleanor not having a clue of how to welcome their new test subjects into the neighborhood. She has to do it anyway--posing as The Architect, she welcomes in John, their seemingly-randomly-chosen new resident. As she shows him around the neighborhood, it becomes clear that John had a previous relationship with Tahani--on Earth, he was a gossip columnist who tormented her constantly. Obviously, this was a ploy straight from Shawn and the Bad Place--they never determined whether or not the new dead people could have known the four lead humans before. The Judge agrees that's not super fair, so she says the deceased will have their memories of the Soul Squad erased henceforth. This is all well and good until the next new test subject who shows up is Simone, Chidi's brilliant neuroscientist ex. Chidi gets a stomach ache over this--he knows himself, and he knows that, even if Simone has no memory of him, he won't be able to relax around her. The only reasonable thing, he says, is for Janet and Michael to wipe his memory so he will not ruin the investigation. This is fraught, obviously; Chidi and Eleanor have fallen super in love, and this means he will have zero memory of any of the time they've spent together. It's absolutely crushing to watch these two people who have found each other over and over again lose each other once more--Chidi being welcomed into THE GOOD PLACE with a blank expression is something I never wanted to see. Though it ended on sort of a downer, this season of THE GOOD PLACE has been just as inventive and original as the previous two, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.
SPEAKING of ORIGINAL, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend took a huge step towards the end of its four year exploration of love, mental illness, and our expectations about romance. It's so rude of them to begin right as I started college and end just as I'm ending college, but it's not about me, I guess. It's about all of us--this episode in particular is about all of us. After a few weeks that were weaker than expected, this week's episode was extremely impressive--in tone, in message, in satire, and in honesty. The hour is a parody of CXGF showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna's beloved romantic comedy "The Devil Wears Prada" with many other famous rom coms melded in. Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster in a masterful episode-leading performance) and Maya serve as the fantasy's central couple, subverting expectations and pointing out classic rom com tropes along the way. In the end, the fantasy component is a conduit for Nathaniel to deal with the fact that Rebecca has now explicitly rejected him (now that she's dating Greg officially). It teaches a valuable lesson about pursuit--even though rom coms make it look sexy, it's not sexy to pursue somebody who has told you time and time again they are not interested. At its best, Crazy Ex Girlfriend teaches us valuable lessons without ever leaning on sentimentality--strange for a sometimes-absurd musical comedy, but altogether so effective. I'm going to miss it so much when it ends.
Bonus! I haven't watched this season of Pete Holmes' Crashing yet, but these guest stars are killing me! Bright and charming and wonderful and hilarious young comedian Jaboukie Young-White last week? Joey Ryan of indie folk band The Milk Carton Kids this week? Sign me up! Sign me up forever!