July 3rd, 2008
Sorry for being a bit missing in action these past few days (And for the weekend) – I’m home for the weekend celebrating a birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!) and associating with a new operating system on my shiny new MacBook, and as a result my television viewing (and writing) is taking a back seat.
But not so much enough to avoid a series I’ve gotten a bit hooked on. After last week’s episode kind of didn’t click for me, this week is a chance for the series to re-engage with its recurring storylines and fall at least somewhat back into its old routine: allow the secondary characters who are one-dimensional to act as such, while the ones with depth are given more material to work with.
“Spit Take” is that type of episode, where Jim Gaffigan’s Andy is given a new side (Albeit a somewhat sketchy one), and where Bobby’s next step with Elsa returns to the idea of PJ inviting Bobby along to Italy for some sort of romantic connection. If last week felt like a sitcom, this feels right: an episode about the live of a whole host of individuals, and not just those contrived moments they intersect.
The real story here is Andy’s new friend Jo – and it’s without an e, which means that she’s a woman. She’s been billed as a friend for a while, and a good friend, but the lack of bromance in favour of strong, improv-filled work relationship is worrying to everyone around him. It’s a brief little note, but when Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) is playing the role, you at least know that shenanigans are afoot.
Gaffigan is always given the real storylines: marriage issues, suburban scenarios, and now infidelity or thereabouts. The show does need to occasionally lay some of this on its other characters, in this episode reduced to one-note jokes and little else, but Gaffigan is so deft at handling it that I can’t complain too loudly. We get only a glimpse of it here, an all too courteous attitude and a dialogue all their own, but combined with the lack of gender information provided in previous comments there’s definitely a sign that the show is heading in this direction.
But like all half hour comedies that like to balance storylines like this, you don’t get much of that story in this episode – instead, it’s Bobby and Elsa’s sudden engagement that gets attention. It’s the usual scenario: Green Card is needed, Bobby is smitten, and we have ourselves a moral dilemma. That the show did relate it to PJ’s previous relationship with Bobby is smart, although it doesn’t really go anywhere: the two have never really sparker romantically, so the chances of them falling into it now seems unlikely.
And considering that the episode ends with PJ, drafted to talk him out of it, agreeing that he is following a logical path, perhaps this was meant as a final beat for their “will they, won’t they?” scenario? PJ’s romantic situation is always a tough card for the show, especially when we consider that none of her romantic conquests have really clicked and (most importantly) Brendan and Bobby are mostly off limits. This seems to cross Bobby off the lift, so she really needs a new trajectory quickly.
The big issue with the episode is actually that these storylines are the only things going on: Andy’s Improv class mostly serves as a location for this action, but we also have Mike playing the jerk (Which is as schticky, but solid, as it usually is), Kenny’s new girlfriend Beth, and Dr. Brando doing some self-diagnosis for Shingles of all things. It was all very sitcom-y, and I think some of it could have easily been excised to make way for some meat to the Elsa/Jo storylines.
But, compared to last week, this is the right path: sitcom is not a bad thing, but it is when it stops all serial development dead in the water. This time around, things were firing on a few more cylinders, and I’m really interested to see how the rest of the season progresses.
- I know Stephanie is a cast member, but why do we care about her book? And how did she sell so many copies of the book in a failing book market that wouldn’t so quickly buy into a cliche tapped too much already? It’s an odd way to spend time if it isn’t going to turn into anything either really funny or really dramatically helpful.
- The first scene really bothered me, since it wrote Kenny as Mike and Mike as Kenny – there, Kenny was too stupid to get Stephanie’s book title, but I thought it was fairly simply stated in the show’s rules that Kenny is smarter than Mike is. The show has had issues with this in the past, and while I don’t want to typecast the characters too much I do think that such ridiculous malfunctions might be an issue.