Monday, October 5, 2015

REVIEW: 'Life in Pieces' - John, Matt and Greg Hilariously Try to Cut Down a Tree in 'Sleepy Email Brunch Tree'

CBS' Life in Pieces - Episode 1.03 "Sleepy Email Brunch Tree"

When Matt invites Colleen to brunch with the family, he coaches her through the difficult task of connecting with them. John, Matt and Greg try to prove their masculinity by cutting down a tree in Greg's backyard. Tim has an adverse reaction to espresso. A sleep-deprived Greg has a run-in with the cops.

There is such a strong familiarity to all of the stories that Life in Pieces depicts in "Sleepy Email Brunch Tree" - the sleep deprived parents, the parent trying to send an email, the new girlfriend meeting the family for the first time, and the men trying to prove their masculinity. And yet, the show has a fresh perspective on all of them. Unexpected aspects of these familiar topics are explored that makes for each little story being more than just a redundant story. This show is capable of being too cozy too quickly. Last week's episode suffered from that. However, this one takes the expected and flips it on its head in order to find the humor. That's what makes this episode the best one so far.

The show is still too comfortable with its core character pairings. But it is slowly expanding - though that largely just features group scenes instead of just two characters for one story. Greg and Jen have become a solid source of comedy for one story each week. And yet, the one that opens this episode is very funny largely because it takes things to a ridiculous proportion. They love their baby but hate that they wake up to screams and diaper changes. Jen doesn't want to admit that it's happening. She keeps her eyes closed until she can't any longer. Meanwhile, Greg is happily asleep. He can't hear any of it. That's amusing. Jen literally has to hit him in order to help. Sleep is very important for him it seems - to the point that it's severely effecting him while he's awake. Of course, he goes to the store to get diapers and a slushie for his family. He ends up being pulled over due to his inability to drive a vehicle despite the slushie and a bunch of six hour old hot dogs. Jen doesn't see it as a tricky legal situation that will need to be worked out. She's jealous that he's going to get time away from the baby. She desperately wants that and it seems like Greg gets that all the time. And then, she has to get the diapers again and she too gets distracted by the old hot dogs.

Heather sending an email had the potential to be a really horrible story. The worry was instant that it would be nothing more than a middle aged woman not knowing how to use technology. Thankfully, it wasn't that at all. She was faced with this deadline or risk getting something she really did not want. The clock was counting down and her family kept interrupting her. Things kept escalating in ridiculousness. She goes from in her kitchen with relative quiet to forcing an activist for humane treatment of animals to distract her kids for awhile to her having to go over to her parents' house in order to use their Wi-Fi. The scene builds and builds. And then, she's too late. Despite her best efforts, she was still stuck with petting zoo duty. However, something miraculous happened. Tim showed that he was capable of being a decent human being and husband. That was a crucial thing that needed to be seen. He helped her in a way she desperately needed. Even though he was distracted by the things of his Heather wanted to give to Good Will, he was still there for her when she needed it.

The family brunch that sees Colleen meeting the rest of Matt's family for the first time is basically all about the end reveal. Matt was apparently married once before - and no one in the family has a high opinion of his first wife. The fallout of that reveal will have to wait until the next time Matt and Colleen are on screen together. But this story also showcases just how great Colleen is. She has a problematic personal life as well. But she is able to bring the charm and win over the family with relative ease. Sure, the siblings do an exaggerated job of pointing out how well she is doing - especially when it comes to how Joan holds Colleen's hand. There are bits of humor that don't quite work in this story - the waitress having no clue what John is talking about when he mentions his regular drink, Tim's various swingers jokes, anything with the kids, etc. But it is able to coast on the charms of Matt and Colleen and just how effortless they are as a couple.

The final story produces one absolutely hilarious sequence. It features a montage of John, Greg and Matt all doing their best to chop down a tree in Greg's yard. John doesn't want a professional to take care of it. He believes he and his boys can handle it by themselves. It's a fantastic display as they all get a taste of how good it feels to repeatedly hit the tree despite it not being anywhere close to coming down. They do their best but it's still standing. The women are inside judging how ridiculous all of them are being out there. Plus, Heather is worried about getting Tim another set of clothing after one cup of expresso just runs through him. But the show really has fun with itself during this scene. The humor is easy and familial but the execution puts it above the rest. For once, the episode actually ends strongly. That's a nice sign of improvement. Now, the show just has to continue that momentum with the next few episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Sleepy Email Brunch Tree" was written by Justin Adler and directed by Jason Winer.
  • For once, I thought a story revolving around Jen wouldn't include a sexual joke. And then, the story ends with her at the store telling the man at the register to fist her - with the meat wands.
  • It really is easy for the Matt, Heather, John and Joan stories to intersect now that they are all living in such close proximity to each other.
  • Tyler is starting to become a little creepy and one note. In two episodes now, he has pleaded with an adult who isn't his parent to help him when it comes to illegal substances. It's just slightly weird. He needs a new reason to be funny on the show.
  • It's fantastic that out of the entire family Joan is the one most obsessed with football. The men go out to chop down the tree and she stares at the TV with a passion - plus a baby in her arms.
  • It's not as if John, Greg and Matt were very successful with the tree but I don't imagine Tim being much help if he was physically able to anyway. Though it could have been amusing to see him try.
  • Jen: "Meet me in the battle of the nursery. Or the nursery of the battle."
  • Greg: "I promise that I'm going to come back." Jen: "Why would you say that?"
  • Heather upon hearing the door bell: "Who's that? We don't have any friends."