“John, Cougar, Newman Camp”
August 7th, 2008
After a bit of a non-starter of a season wherein the opening resolution to the cliffhanger never went anywhere, and where the relentless drive towards this wedding finale never felt like any sort of natural progression, we have a finale that wants to bookend things cleaner than the season actually was.
And it’s successful – as far as season finales go, it is a smart choice of letting its various characters serve the right roles in Bobby’s march to holy matrimony, and even though the ending is entirely predictable the episode offers our gang of friends enough opportunities to interact that it doesn’t feel like a total cheat. It still doesn’t feel like any type of finale, serving just as a tease for the continuation to come likely early next year, but it does achieve at least a good sense of character within its contrived plotting.
So while I can’t say I’m any more excited about the final cliffhanger as I was when I presumed it would happen weeks ago, the combination of a decent continuation of last week’s threads with some funny gang stuff rises above the median but does little to change the season’s overall quality.
To start, I had to look at the title a good three times before I realized that it refers to the various objects of affection: Brendan’s John, Mike’s Cougar, and PJ’s Newman brother(s). And the first two ultimately get their conquests: John arrives just in time for Brendan to present him with a mix tape and for them to plan out their plans for the bar, and Mike’s Cougar is ultimately tamed by his humorous self. It’s the last one that really devolves here, falling into pure drama by episode’s end.
Mike’s storyline is actually really smart here, as it is just the right balance of goofball and, well, human. Mike opens bragging about the previous night’s conquest, Mimi Rogers’ Maggie, but then we learn that she was slumming it post-divorce. Mike’s normal woman is not quite a mature Unicef foundation organizer, and he shifts into a desperate attempt to appear cultured and sophisticated that the show smartly doesn’t let go on for very long. Not only is it unbelievable, but it’s the worst part of Mike’s persona – eventually, his charm (aka his incessant pleading that she should ignore the rest of his personality in favour of his charm) wins her over enough that he gets to keep his wedding hookup even if there’s no chance of further advancement. The storyline feels a bit wasted considering how much better Mimi Rogers plays neurotic than charitable, but I found Mike less annoying than he’s been in past weeks so I can’t complain.
And right out of the drunken hookups cliche we have Kenny and Stephanie, who share awkward glances, a contrived walk down the aisle, and eventually a bra exchange and a handshake. I do think it’s smart for the show to avoid actually coupling them, as it would have been more predictable, but I REALLY hope that there is an actual change in their dynamic in the future. And I don’t mean like what they did with PJ and Bobby, where (when convenient) they had PJ decide to be in love with him again without any previous warning. There needs to be subtle differences in how they treat one another and react to each other’s demeanor, or else this was just a stunt and nothing more.
But the episode was really about the inevitable march towards Bobby deciding he’s in love with PJ, and then conveniently finding out that she is hooking up with his bad boy brother. But let’s ignore Jack for a second – Bobby’s wedding does give us some good scenes, including the opening breakfast, the pre-wedding drinkfest (Which was really strong for everyone involved), and Andy’s pre-wedding speech that eventually (if inadvertantly) drives Bobby to PJ. I am perplexed at the decision for Jim Gaffigan to be separated from everyone for almos the entire episode, but that scene was a good use of his talents (Even if I can’t understand why Meredith isn’t at this wedding, they really needed to play the pregnancy card flat out if that’s their excuse). Andy either has to be a strong emotional force or a comic one – even if I prefer the latter, the former worked here to drive Bobby into realizing that he treats PJ like his wife and Elsa like his…something else.
I still don’t quite know what the season was getting at, though – creator Betsy Thomas is on the record frustrated that a potential 22 episode order got cut to 9, but even then it felt like there was no sense of direction. You could claim that it was cyclical, that we went from Bobby and PJ to Bobby and PJ, but considering that I have no emotional investment in them as a pairing (I’ve never quite viewed them as the answer to Ross and Rachel the show wants us to) it doesn’t feel earned. When Bobby was on that plane, it didn’t feel like an event but a formality – she had to take someone that wouldn’t rock the boat too much, and so she took the member of the cast. I’m more interested now than I was then, but this doesn’t change that the show still has some serious work to do until they can earn a cliffhanger like this one.
Regardless, that’s the season – I would expect the show to return probably sometime next year, but it could be next summer before we see more of the show (if it’s renewed, even). I might have a few more thoughts on this as the summer rolls down and I kind of put it into context, but for now that’s a piece of closure.
- Marilu Henner pops up as Bobby’s mother long enough to be almost exactly like his father, and then never gets another line and apparently reconnects with his father without us seeing any of their conversation. Seems a bit of a waste, which seems like a real trend with the guest stars in this little two-part finale.
- Forget having a best man: I’m having a DOF (Deputy of Fun) at my wedding. It just has a nicer ring to it.