Monday, September 28, 2015

REVIEW: 'Life in Pieces' - Joan Leds a Family Therapy Session to Strengthen Communication in 'Interruptus Date Breast Movin''

CBS' Life in Pieces - Episode 1.02 "Interruptus Date Breast Movin'"

After Matt walks in on Joan and John being intimate, Joan attempts to lead a group therapy session. Jen hires a breast-feeding consultant couple. Matt and Colleen have the most enjoyable bad date ever. Heather and Tim move to a new home with the help of a moving company that employs ex-cons.

There already seems to be a familiarity to Life in Pieces in "Interruptus Date Breast Movin'." The appeal of the show's premise is that it is four short stories told individually across each half-hour episode. That is a fresh perspective especially given the way the show executes that vision. And yet, it only really works as an ongoing concept if it's not the same thing over and over again. This episode provides much more details into the lives of each character. Expanding the characteristics of everyone in this family is a good thing. But the structure of this episode is identical to what happened last week in the series premiere. It's just the order of stories that is slightly different. So that means the stories feature Matt and Colleen awkwardly dating, Greg and Jen being confused by the intimate details after having a baby, Heather and Tim passing major life milestones with their children, and one big story that brings everyone together.

The strengths of the series opener aren't the strengths of this episode though. Despite the major similarities between the two, some elements work less well here while others work more. In fact, this episode's first story is the strongest and each one afterwards declines in quality. That's the opposite of what this show should aspire to be. Yes, all four stories need to be great. But there should be a build to it as well. Right now, it just plays as various little stories that don't really have much that tie them together. There's no reward for making it to the end of each episode.

This cast has such strong chemistry with each other. That is on display in each of the various stories. But it's especially apparent in the big scene where they are all together. The moment where they are all on the couch as Joan is trying to lead a family therapy session is fantastic. It establishes the group dynamic of this entire family in a much stronger way than last week's funeral party. It's not overbearing with it's message. It's simply trying to open the lines of communication to everyone in this family. That's a strong message that allows for a couple of great comedic pairings. Once this show feels confident to mix and match the various members of its cast, it will be such a delightful sight to behold. Just look no further than the brief interaction during the therapy session between Jen and Tim. Within seconds, their dynamic is instantly apparent. He is intimidated by her and she doesn't want to deal with his overall goofball qualities. It's a meaningful moment that creates a laugh. So does Greg and Matt doing their best to speak the same word at the same time. It's moments like that that will best define the characters.

But it is comforting to know that there is a foundation for each of these characters to feel at home with. The pairings on display will be the moment important for every member of this family. The funny will come out of the show exploring new variations on each character. They don't have to be limited to the same thing being funny over and over again. Matt and Colleen going on their second date is identical structurally to their first one. Both of them are trainwrecks who shouldn't be dating right now. They don't have their lives in order. But they are still an endearing couple so quickly because there is an openness and honesty between them. That story works because Colleen tells Matt this is the day of her cancelled wedding and he tells her his car is on fire. They work because they embrace the unexpected. That's refreshing.

The last two stories of this episode are just so weird and off putting though. The show gets the first half right but then goes in weird directions for the second half. Why is the show so fascinated by Jen's genitalia? Yes, the female body goes through changes after giving birth. But why does that have to be the only source of comedy with that character? Colin Hanks and Zoe Lister Jones have so much chemistry as a couple. But continuing to put them in stories that focus too much on feeling her body is just so weird. Similarly, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of substance to the Heather and Tim story featuring a big move to a house across the street from Joan, John and Matt. Yes, that move was necessary to help bring all of these characters together in a practical way moving forward. But the humor of the story comes from the ex-con movers blowing whistles whenever they spot something that could be a trigger for them. It's okay to use these movers but why are they the ones doing all the packing and discovering all of these items? It's just a weird story that makes no sense at all while not giving the characters much to do comedically.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Interruptus Date Breast Movin'" was written by Justin Adler and directed by Jason Winer.
  • Joan's laugh is great - especially when she realizes she's technically now a porn star after John accidentally recorded a video of them being intimate on Matt's phone and can't delete it.
  • Love the small running joke about Colleen needing to drink as much alcohol as possible in order to make it through this day. The date actually ended up going really well too because Matt made the most of the non-refundable rehearsal space.
  • Angelique Cabral is great but it's going to be really difficult for the show to get her to interact with other characters from the main family besides Matt in a realistic way.
  • Got a big laugh out of John pouring some tequila into Matt's car in order to get it to run. Also enjoyed the fact that John is happy to have three children so he and Joan could get it all right.
  • The best thing about Stephnie Weir is just how much she commits to things. Her breast-feeding consultant character was pretty bad but it almost works because of how committed she is to it.
  • Things can only go poorly by living across the street from your parents, right?
  • Matt on his parents intimate moment: "It was like watching two candles melt onto each other."
  • Greg: "Our baby only really sees shapes and colors right now, mom. So at this point it'd really be guesswork."