February 10th, 2011
Perfect Couples is, ironically enough, rife with terrible couplings, or at the very least dichotomous components. The theme song, from Carl Newman of The New Pornographers, is catchy to the point that I want it for a ring tone; the opening credits, meanwhile, are a hideous mess. I am legitimately a “fan” of Kyle Bornheimer, while Olivia Munn is quickly becoming a form of kryptonite. The show is all over the map, and thus each episode becomes about parts rather than the whole; however, since the show actually wants it to be about the whole in the way it links the three couples together, there’s an inherent tension there that makes watching, and liking, the show quite difficult.
And yet I sort of like enough of it to be on board. “Perfect Jealousy” isn’t brilliant, and parts of its broad humor don’t work, but I wonder if this might be as close as we can get to balance in the force.
Christine Woods is funny! I honestly hadn’t even realized that she was that Christine Woods, the one who was on the entirely humorless FlashForward, because I really like the Dave/Julia relationship on this show. They’re effectively the “normal” couple, but they are easily the most consistent comic performers on this show. Bornheimer is clearly capable of more broad physical humor, on display here as he awkwardly crashes Julia’s fundraiser, but Woods got the biggest laughs in the episode with her response to being flirted with. Just a really great little bit of comedy, one that doesn’t call too much attention to itself and which meshes comfortably with the more straightwoman role she otherwise plays.
Dave and Julia are able to bridge that gap better than they should, really: Bornheimer and Woods are both great at reacting to their more ridiculous friends, but they’re able to indulge just as easily, and the way they can get swept up in a moment is perhaps the series’ strongest element. This is not to say that other parts of the story are without charm: I thought, for example, that Vance and Amy’s reconciliation was quite smart, and I’d say that their hit-miss ratio is probably acceptable for a show in its first few episodes. It’s just that Dave and Julia to move between the various worlds, dynamic characters who can be solidly funny while also being soundly reasonable.
The same cannot be said about Rex and Leigh, who Hayes MacArthur and Olivia Munn have been struggling with throughout the first few episodes. They’re just so bloody broad, and in last week’s episode there seemed a clear attempt to drag everyone else down to their level with the man cave. If the point of the show is seeing how three different couples can all end up in similar situations, their presence risks taking the show to a level that I don’t think even Dave and Julia can sustain, and to a level where it ceases to be all that entertaining.
However, “Perfect Jealousy” largely shows Rex and Leigh being elevated to the level of the other characters: Rex deals with financial problems at the dealership, while Leigh gets a nice character note at episode’s end when you consider the necessary mental state for someone to have a “rainy day fund” for if their marriage falls apart. However, not every episode will be like this: Rex and Leigh go back to being all-out obnoxious in the coda (once their financial position is restored), and chances are other episodes will not have Rex in such an emotionally unstable state. This is a nice dramatic note, a bit of a test of their relationship, but their baseline is so obnoxious that I don’t know if the show will often replicate this kind of success.
This was not a brilliant episode of comedy, and the show’s ratings seem to have it dead in the water. However, “Perfect Jealousy” was the closest the show has come to proving its overall worth, delivering enough moments and performances to suggest that this is something which could turn into a television show that I would enjoy watching each and every week. That transformation isn’t likely to happen for a while, but the interim isn’t quite as painful as one might think.
- Are real estate companies the new thinly drawn employment opportunity of choice? With Cougar Town and Perfect Couples, we only need one more for a trend.
- The three female characters all breaking into “Hi-ee” when Dave walks in was a nice little touch.
- Seriously, though, those opening credits are just horrifying. Love the song, and demand to know if it’s a part of something longer, but those visuals are mind-bogglingly poorly designed.