Tuesday, October 1, 2013

COMEDY ROUNDUP: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Tries to Fix a Slump; 'New Girl' Truth Exposed; More 80's Humor on 'The Goldbergs'; & 'Trophy Wife' Pairs Kate and Bert

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 1.03 The Slump

FOX's New Girl - Episode 3.03 Double Date

ABC's The Goldbergs - Episode 1.02 Daddy Daughter Day

ABC's Trophy Wife - Episode 1.02 Cold File

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Jake has a slew of unsolved cases that he can't seem to close, and the other detectives don't want his losing streak to rub off on them. Meanwhile, Holt asks Amy to run lead on Junior Policeman Program for at-risk youth, and she enlists Rosa and Gina's help. Also, Boyle helps Sergeant Jeffords with a special case he cannot solve.

The series has really been fine tuning its ensemble cast in the two episodes since the pilot. The two side stories were the comedic highlights of the episode - largely from Terry Crews trying (and failing) to build a playhouse and Chelsea Peretti's interpretive dance to "Beautiful." The opening teaser as well - with everyone just sitting around and discussing what is the best cop film - was a pure delight and character shading for all these wonderful and interesting characters.

So much of the series - in its first three episodes - has been rooted by the relationship between Jake Peralta and Captain Ray Holt. It was been fine and humorous - and satisfyingly good use of both Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher. The minor quibble right now is that each week their dynamic follows the same structure. Holt and Jake don't agree on something, they bicker until it's revealed that Holt was right all along. It's fine for now - I particularly liked how much pleasure Holt got when he admitted he was just messing with Jake - but their relationship needs to grow and be more of a push and pull type of thing.

New Girl - Thinking Schmidt has chosen to be with Cece, Jess and Nick invite him to go on a double date with them. Nick is caught between loyalty to his friend and loyalty to his girlfriend when he finds out a shocking secret. Meanwhile, Winston promises to get the foursome a table at an ultra-exclusive restaurant that doesn't take reservations.

The Schmidt dating Cece and Elizabeth at the same time plot was just terrible. It just made me actively dislike the guy. It was trite and mechanical. We all knew how it would end because Hannah Simone is a regular and Emmy winner Merritt Wever is not. And yet, the show dragged it out for three whole episodes. And in the end, he doesn't get either of them. That's very self-conscious of the show because having 4 of the 5 regular characters in relationships makes crazy Winston stand out even more.

Sidenote: Crazy Winston is the most consistent version of the character the show has ever presented and Lamorne Morris fully commits to playing it. However, he still feels outside of the realm of the show.

So that plot is now over and a new potentially even worse one is about to start - Schmidt actively trying to break up Nick and Jess. That is stupid. The relationship needs to be about Nick and Jess and if their pairing is something that works romantically and long-term on its own merits. The show wants to stick Schmidt into it - and is much worse because of it.

So, "Double Date" largely fails because it is a plot based episode where the plot is predictable and off-putting. The episode still gets a lot of laughs though especially by Nick and Jess' interactions and Cece repeatedly punching Nick. 

The Goldbergs - Just as a new school year begins, Murray and Erica's family tradition of spending the first Saturday together roller-skating is in jeopardy since Erica has turned into a moody teenager and believes the activity is juvenile. Once at the rink, things take a turn for the worse that neither father nor daughter could have foreseen. Meanwhile, Beverly takes Adam shopping for new school clothes and is dismayed when Pops has other plans.

Episode two functions very similarly to the pilot. Murray attempts to bond with one of his children but can't. Barry over-the-top reacts to things and does some flashy physical comedy. Beverly tries to bond with Adam but he pushes her away so that he can hang out with Pops. It's the same structure. And the same constant yelling. And the same obligatory 80s references - which often are the funniest things on the show.

Murray bonding with Erica simply doesn't work because Erica has no comedic voice or any defining trait as a character. The stuff that defines this story are Barry and Murray.

The Beverly-Adam-Pops stuff works better again largely because of 80s references and snarky commentary by Patton Oswalt. Wendi McLendon-Covey continues to be great. Beverly is the one character I get a strong comedic understanding from.

Just like the pilot, episode two is building up to the moment Beverly and Murray realize that their kids are growing up and needing/wanting them less. It just seems lazy to do that again and makes me question if the series will ever amount to anything larger in sentimentality.

Trophy Wife - When Kate asks Pete for more responsibility, he entrusts her to put Bert to bed and help him coach Bert's soccer team. Before soccer practice, Bert drinks Kate's coffee and becomes a wild man on the field before crashing. Meanwhile, Warren and Hilary spill salsa on Diane's immaculate white couch and try to hide it from her.

Like The Goldbergs, episode two of Trophy Wife followed a similar structure to the pilot. Kate strives to become a part of this hectic world and when given the opportunity presents itself she messes things up. The difference between the two shows is that the Kate and Bert stuff is actually pretty funny.

Malin Akerman continues to be immensely likable and a pleasure to watch while Albert Tsai's line delivery walks the line of cute, mature and dry amazingly well. Putting these two together so quickly gives me confidence that the show knows exactly what its best parts are. Additionally, Michaela Watkins doing physical comedy is never not enjoyable. Here she simulates what happens when husband & wife coach together - they break apart - as well as humorously showing balls exploding.

This episode also marked the debut of Bailee Madison as Pete and Diane's teenage daughter Hilarie. She was perfectly fine in the role but the overall plot of spilling salsa on the couch was pretty straight-forward. It was pleasant and showed that those two kids can carry a story.