Tuesday, November 24, 2015

REVIEW: 'Grandfathered' - Jimmy Gets Competitive When Sara's Ex-Boyfriend, Bruce, Returns in 'Gerald's Two Dads'

FOX's Grandfathered - Episode 1.08 "Gerald's Two Dads"

Jimmy plans his annual Malibu Thanksgiving day with one of the hottest stomach models on Instagram, but his plans get derailed when he swings by Sara's house for an obligatory holiday visit and feels threatened by the return of her ex-boyfriend, Bruce (Andy Daly).

Grandfathered has become a bit too comfortable with its regular operating procedure as of late. A typical story includes Jimmy creating tension with the rest of the family simply because he's narcissistic and used to doing things a certain way. His misunderstanding creates hijinks for the majority of the episode only for him to learn his lesson and prove himself in the end. That's the exact formula that happens in "Gerald's Two Dads." It's also the formula for many of the previous episodes. It's fine but it's also starting to wear a little thin. How can Jimmy grow as a character if he's just making the same mistakes and learning the same lessons over and over again?

In "Gerald's Two Dads," Jimmy selfishly wants to do Thanksgiving the way that he has always done it - going on a hot date with a model in Malibu. He truly believes that he can just stick his head in on his family's get together for 30 minutes and then leave. He proves his ability to complement and get out of a situation quickly. But doing that on Ravi is very different than his own family. They will notice his absence. It won't stop their celebration because they've done fine without him for years. But this doesn't speak well of the character and what he has become over these first few episodes of the season. He looks incredibly foolish for thinking that he can just be there for a small amount of time and then just leave. It makes him look like a selfish man. That's the point throughout the episode. The show is aware of that and calls him out on it. But the show also does that a lot. So much so, that it actually lessens the effectiveness of him needing to deal with his issues because next week he'll create a very similar mess and learn the same thing again.

In this case, Jimmy only stays at the family event because Sara's ex-boyfriend, Bruce, shows up. Bruce is played by Review star Andy Daly and he makes so much of this episode better simply by appearing. It's fun that he is being presented as a romantic interest for Sara. He's an unexpected choice especially since she could have someone who looks like John Stamos. But it also makes a lot of sense. Sara and Bruce have this complicated history where they have dated on and off for years. In total, they've dated for seven years. That's a much more real and genuine connection than Sara has with Jimmy. All they have is the time they dated when they were young and the few months after Jimmy learned he had a son - and a granddaughter. So, it's easy for her to get swept up in a romance with Bruce again once he returns.

That's also why Gerald is so excited to see Bruce coming to Thanksgiving dinner. Bruce was his surrogate father for years. He did all the things that most fathers would do. Bruce was a way for Gerald to fit in. They have a bond that is strong. They have history and memories together. Jimmy is still working on that. He wants to prove himself to Bruce. He needs to show Bruce that he is just as good at being a father as he is. But that largely presents itself in Jimmy not understanding that the feeling he is experiencing is jealousy. He goes over-the-top in order to prove himself. But he only does so in artificial ways. He bribes Annalise into buying a bunch of gifts for the family. He gets in a competition of sorts with Bruce to one up each other. Jimmy gives Gerald a fryer. Bruce gives him a canoe. It's a competition that gets messy and petty and wounds up ruining the evening.

And yet, that disagreement doesn't keep either Jimmy or Bruce from staying close with this family. For all purposes, they are family to these people. Sara can't help but find Bruce charming. In just a mater of hours, she is back kissing and holding hands with him. Gerald gets to yell at Jimmy for letting his jealousy get the best of him when everyone else had to deal with those emotions for years without him. Gerald was right to criticize Jimmy for his actions. But Jimmy still comes up on top because he goes back to the restaurant and is able to perfectly recreate the Thanksgiving meal that Gerald and Sara would much rather have on the holiday. So just like that he is back in the family's good graces. But it's still a very formulaic and repetitive ending. No matter how badly Jimmy may mess up, he'll always be able to win his way back in. He always gives off the illusion of growth. But he never really embraces it though. That's a problem that can only get bigger the deeper into the season the show goes with it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Gerald's Two Dads" was written by Sam Laybourne and directed by Claire Scanlon.
  • Yes, being famous because you're an Instagram stomach model shouldn't be a thing. But that doesn't make what happens to her a justifiable action. She's an important character in this story and the rest of the characters would rather just toss her aside. The final reveal of her being sunburn was played for laughs instead of a horrible action that everyone in this family did to her. She wasn't a great or necessary character at all but she didn't really deserve that ending.
  • It's amusing that Vanessa wants all the juicy details about Sara's relationship with Bruce. But the payoff to that story wasn't especially great. Plus, it's weird that the show wants to play Jimmy's jealousy entirely as him still having feelings for Sara.
  • Annalise and Ravi can still revert back to being one-note character so very easily. Their Thanksgiving plans were both ruined by Jimmy as well. And yet, they are willing to go along with it because he promises Annalise a TV and says Ravi can still have his dinner at the restaurant.
  • Scenes between Jimmy and Edie continue to be really funny. Each episode should feature one of those. The montage of the two kissing was pretty great.