Saturday, March 18, 2017

COMEDY ROUNDUP: 'The Last Man on Earth,' 'Superior Donuts,' 'The Mindy Project,' 'The Real O'Neals' & 'Superstore' (March 12-16)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from March 12-16:

FOX's The Last Man on Earth - Episode 3.11 "The Spirit of St. Lewis"
CBS' Superior Donuts - Episode 1.07 "The Amazing Racists"
Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 5.12 "Mindy Lahiri Is a White Man"
ABC's The Real O'Neals - Episode 2.16 "The Real Secrets"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.16 "Integrity Award"

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.

The Last Man on Earth - "The Spirit of St. Lewis"
After being locked up for her own safety, Melissa plays hurtful mind games with the group. Todd and the group explore medications that might help her. Lewis goes on a new solo adventure. Written by Liz Cackowski & John Solomon and directed by John Solomon

This season of The Last Man on Earth has been dark. It's also been pretty great as well. The darker the story goes the better the show becomes. This season has kept hitting the characters with new challenges made more complicated by their unique world. Things were already pretty bleak with the group having to lock Melissa up due to her psychosis and Gail getting trapped in an elevator. This episode took things a step further and killed Lewis during his first flight. Tandy pushed for him to make the trip to lift everyone's spirits but instead it ended in disaster. That's a brutal joke but it really works to. It shows that everything could get so much worse for these characters. That's probably not sustainable as a mood for a long time. But it's great that it has no easy fix in the end either. Tandy trying to lift everyone's spirits yet again with a massive display is in line with his character. But it's also fitting that everyone else is tired of them and aren't as optimistic as he is. Of course, it's also wonderful to see that Gail is still alive. The light show powers the elevator again. It's going to be so great to see what she has to say to the rest of the group after this ordeal. A

Superior Donuts - "The Amazing Racists"
When Franco is subjected to a stop-and-frisk for no reason, Randy invites her fellow cops to a community outreach meeting to discuss profiling. Arthur must consider his own unconscious bias when a piece of his sports memorabilia goes missing, and he suspects Franco's friend stole it. Written by Robb Chavis and directed by Ken Whittingham

"The Amazing Racists" does a solid job in forcing all of the characters to confront their unconscious bias. It's a difficult and complicated story that the show doesn't shy away from. Plus, it expands the universe a bit more in giving Franco a new friend and introducing a new police officer outside of Randy and James. Sure, it's easy to then make those two the bad guys who take all the blame in the end. But the show still has a nice conversation amongst the characters that feels nuanced. It's not just about Franco and Arthur. It's about all of them. That's fascinating and helps the show feel more like an ensemble. They each have a unique point-of-view. It's easy to understand why they carry these opinions. It's clear why they have these biases and how difficult it is to change their behavior. It's something they all agree that it's great they're talking about it while also having no clue how to change it. Sure, Maya could have been more integral to the story than just a source for an easy laugh. But overall, this was a solid episode. B+

The Mindy Project - "Mindy Lahiri is a White Man"
Mindy is unfairly passed over for a promotion and goes to bed wishing things were different. She wakes up in the body of a handsome white man and quickly discovers the perks that come with white male privilege. Written by Lang Fisher and directed by Marco Fargnoli

This is yet another high-concept episode for the season - and it comes so soon after the "Groundhog's Dog" episode. It's a fun concept that leads to another light episode for Mindy Kaling. She's just in a couple of scenes at the beginning and end as well as some voiceover. She still feels like a major presence though because the story is still about Mindy. She just is played by Ryan Hansen instead. Now, the creative team has always imagined Mindy as having white male privilege despite being an Indian woman. But this episode makes the differences even starker. It's good for a couple of laughs to see Mindy adjusting to her new body. But it also has a predictable quality to it as well with her learning her lesson. It sends a strong message that white men need to help others who don't look like them so they can get the same opportunities. They are actually the laziest because it's so easy not to do that. That message is strong and clear. Plus, it's great to see Mindy go to Tamra with her problems instead of Morgan. That's a significant change from the norm that made Mindy trying to help her fellow doctor even more unique and special. B

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Secrets"
VP Murray is nervous to tell Pat about his plans to ask Eileen to marry him and is relieved to receive Pat's blessing to do so. Eileen and Kenny realize how far they've come when they help Allison deal with her close-minded parents. Shannon and Jimmy discover a pregnancy test and prepare for life with another sibling. Written by Stacy Traub, Casey Johnson & David Windsor and directed by Todd Holland

There is a certain full circle quality to this episode - the second season finale. It features the characters once again keeping secrets from each other just like the series premiere. And yet, there is a familiarity and predictability to it as well. It seemed inevitable that Jimmy and Shannon would be wrong about Eileen being pregnant - with Aunt Jodi as the only other viable option. Meanwhile, the Pat-Clive story felt like a story the show has done before with their close friendship fooling others into believing they're in a relationship. And lastly, Kenny and Eileen helping Allison deal with her parents after they learned she's gay was a solid foundation for a story that didn't really have enough time or focus to it. It's weird that half of that story is just jokes about her being a bad roommate when she has to stay at the O'Neal house. Of course, the episode does build to a really solid and unique ending with Clive proposing to Eileen and her turning him down. It shows just how weird and different this family unit is but how much they've really come to depend on and love each other as well. B

Superstore - "Integrity Award"
Jonah accompanies Amy on a trip to help her mom and dad move out of her childhood home. Glenn desperately wants to win the freshly minted Cloud 9 Integrity Award, but starts to worry that Garrett has a better chance of winning. Dina tries to take advantage of Mateo's relationship with Jeff to fix problems in the store - including a roach infestation. Cheyenne gets caught up in Glenn's self-serving campaign. Written by Gabe Miller and directed by Linda Mendoza

At times, it feels like this episode is trying to do a little too much. It juggles three stories which the show has done before. And yet, all of them could have used an extra beat in order to really make them land. It would have been great to spend more time with Amy and her parents. It's an episode of reunions - since America Ferrera and Tony Plana played father-daughter on Ugly Betty and Plana and Marlene Forte play husband-wife on The Fosters. It's also great to see Jonah's glee at learning more about Amy. This episode has so much evidence that they would be great friends. But it's still ultimately about sexual tension since Amy denies a call from her husband while eating lunch with Jonah. It's still unclear where that story is heading exactly. After all the setup, it's weird that there isn't some big reveal as to who won the Integrity Award. It would have been great if neither Glenn nor Garrett won. Instead, that story ends with the two of them sharing a cry. And lastly, the Mateo-Dina story was largely just setup for the big twist of Mateo having to transfer to another store in order to keep dating Jeff. The chaos caused by the bugs is amusing. But it was just establishing a conflict for later. B