Saturday, March 4, 2017

COMEDY ROUNDUP: 'Jane the Virgin,' 'Superior Donuts,' 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'The Mindy Project' & 'The Real O'Neals' (Feb. 27-March 3)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from February 27-March 3:

The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 3.13 "Chapter Fifty-Seven"
CBS' Superior Donuts - Episode 1.05 "Takin' It to the Streets"
Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 5.10 "Take My Ex-Wife, Please"
ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 3.15 "Living While Eddie"
ABC's The Real O'Neals - Episode 2.14 "The Real Heartbreak"

Due to the demands of Peak TV, it is becoming more and more difficult for this website to devote the time to full length episodic reviews. And yet, there are still thoughts to be had about the ongoing adventures on a number of series. So I thought it would be good to still write down a couple of brief thoughts about each episode on a weekly basis. Of course, you can still probably expect full reviews for premieres and finales. If the networks should make screeners available, those episodes would get detailed analysis as well. But for now, this will be the way to continue to provide content for these shows while also being a lighter workload for me.

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Fifty-Seven"
When Jane messes up at Mateo's school, Petra convinces Jane to help with the preschool fundraiser to get in the good graces of the preschool's director. Jane is excited for her first meeting with her editor, but he's definitely not what she expected. Rafael's girlfriend, Abbey, suggests moving in together, but Rafael seems a little hesitant and turns to Petra and Jane for advice. Petra is hiding a new relationship, but that's not the only secret she's keeping. Rogelio is being sued after quitting his reality show and hires a lawyer to help fix things, but when the lawyer makes things worse he turns to Bruce for help. Bruce asks Jane and Alba for help in surprising Xo. Written by Madeline Hendricks and directed by Zetna Fuentes

"Chapter Fifty-Seven" is a frustrating episode of Jane the Virgin because it's a little too busy and broad. It's one of the weaker episodes of the show so far. And yet, a weak episode of Jane the Virgin is still a great episode for most other shows. It just didn't feel like the depth and emotions were pushed as far as they could. Instead, it felt like things happened solely for plot reasons. Sure, that has always been the case for a number of stories. It's a convention of telenovelas. But here, everything just felt a little more obvious and awkward. Everything happened to keep things as dramatic or funny as possible. So, Rafael's breakup with Abbey largely just feels like a way to give her agency and importance (and to reopen the investigation into Scott's death). Rogelio's legal problems feel like a way for him to insert himself into Bruce and Xo's relationship and hint that he still holds strong feelings for her. Petra confessing her secret to her new lover feels like a way to keep the tension up so she can never feel too safe. And lastly, Jane's editor asking her to add more obstacles in her novel feels like a way to reignite the spark between her and Rafael. Again, it's way too soon for her to be moving on from Michael. She and Rafael work as best friends right now. But her needing to remember the love she once felt for Rafael to better her novel is largely reduced to one porch conversation with Alba. That's it. Of course, it's always nice to see this cast dress up in extravagant costumes as well - though the Xo-Rafael scene was just weird. B-

Superior Donuts - "Takin' It to the Streets"
When Franco and Sweatpants discover their new landlord, Fawz, wants to convert their apartment building into luxury condos, they decide to organize a protest. Randy realizes she needs to be nicer to James in order to get a good recommendation for her sergeant's exam. Written by Cindy Appel and directed by James Burrows

Superior Donuts
 has shown itself willing to tackle some serious and topical issues. Protests and racist hate crimes are topical subject matter. And yet, it just doesn't seem like the show goes far enough with these ideas. The show itself feels a little too small right now. It's just about this group of characters at the donut shop on one block in Chicago. It doesn't really feel like there is a world for these characters outside of that. If the show is going to tackle these kinds of stories, it needs to present more details of these characters' lives and not just simple jokes. With Randy, it's great to know that she has a daughter and wants to become a sergeant. But those details are less important than the comedic setup of the story which is her having to be overly nice to James. It's the same thing with the main story. Franco versus Fawz over their apartment building gets into some interesting ideas about gentrification. But it's much more about the comedic moments that will get the most laughs - like Fawz promoting his business on camera instead of addressing Franco's real concerns. Plus, it just feels like too neat of an ending with everyone coming together to keep things exactly the same for next week. C+

The Mindy Project - "Take My Ex-Wife, Please"
Mindy acts out after learning that Ben's super hot ex-wife is in town visting him. Anna, having trouble at home, begrudgingly asks her co-workers for help. Written by Chris Schleicher and directed by Daniella Eisman

This episode starts by focusing on the awkwardness in the Mindy-Jody dynamic. It's been awhile since the show has done a story about the two of them. That makes sense given what happened with their big romantic plot. And yet, this episode isn't about them rebuilding that friendship while they hit the road for another "Later, Baby" presentation. Instead, it pivots right back to Mindy and Ben's relationship - which has received so much focus this season. It's a good relationship too. I like Ben. He just doesn't have to be the only thing to define Mindy at the moment. Plus, it feels like a cheat for Mindy and Jody to agree to be friends again at the end of this episode when they basically spend the rest of it fighting. That's just awkward. Meanwhile, Ben having his ex-wife check into a hotel felt inevitable. And finally, the prospect of Mindy and Anna becoming roommates is very enticing. Anna has been an interesting addition who could use more focus this season. She and Mindy already have a fun, tense dynamic. So, the two of them living together should be great for laughs. Also, will Anna and Jeremy get traction as a couple? Or was that just a one-off here? B-

Fresh Off the Boat - "Living While Eddie"
After her precious morning papaya goes missing and the dishwasher was used for its actual purpose rather than just a drying rack, Jessica automatically accuses Eddie as the culprit. Yet when a record store manager accuses him of stealing a CD, she realizes he has other motives for his actions. Louis and Emery are bursting with excitement when a TV crew comes to shoot an infomercial at Cattleman's Ranch. Written by Rich Blomquist and directed by Jeffrey Walker

The relationship between Jessica and Eddie has always been very interesting and great for comedic storytelling. They simply don't understand each other. This episode may take that to the extreme a little too much with Jessica always believing that Eddie is guilty of whatever crime she happens to notice. It's a familiar comedic plot setup - with Eddie getting the blame only to reveal that he's covering for someone else (in this case Evan). It forces Jessica to realize her own bias. Of course, it's also a lot of fun to see her attack the music store manager once Eddie is able to prove his story. That's great. Plus, all of the stuff with the dishwasher gives the story a unique perspective as well. And then, Louis and Emery's story at the restaurant is absolutely hilarious. It's just wonderful watching them both try and fail to deliver a line for this infomercial. Plus, it's fantastic to see how seriously Emery takes all of this immediately - all in the pursuit of replacing his father. The final punchline with the infomercial cutting around their failures is pretty awesome as well. B+

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Heartbreak"
Devastated by his break-up with Brett, Kenny tags along with Pat and Jimmy to a Lonely Hearts happy hour. But when they try to use Kenny's sadness to get attention from single ladies, Kenny inadvertently steals the show. Eileen shuns the usual Valentine's Day traditions until a chance encounter changes her mind. Written by Robert Sudduth and directed by Kevin Bray

It's the end of February. So, it's very odd that The Real O'Neals is doing a Valentine's Day episode now. It makes sense given the arc for the characters. It's just awkward from a logistical point-of-view. Plus, the concept of one character hating the holiday only to come around on it by the end of the episode has grown very tired. It makes sense that Eileen feels that way. Her story just doesn't do a whole lot new with the idea. The humor of this episode largely comes from how extreme Kenny is taking his breakup with Brett. That story works because it is so ridiculously over-the-top - especially his epic '90s style music video at the top of the episode. It's the way Kenny has approached a lot of things in his life. So, it's not a surprise he would react the same now. It's also amusing to see Pat and Jimmy try to use Kenny's sadness to get attention from women wherever they go. Of course, they also realize they should be with Kenny and not other people. He needs their support. That final scene with all the guys is very sweet and genuine - though Kenny's joke about Pat and Jimmy looking like a couple is very strange. B