Saturday, March 11, 2017

COMEDY ROUNDUP: 'Superior Donuts,' 'The Mindy Project,' 'Mom' and 'black-ish' (March 6-10)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from March 6-10:

CBS' Superior Donuts - Episode 1.06 "Arthur's Day Off"
Hulu's The Mindy Project - Episode 5.11 "Dibs"
ABC's black-ish - Episode 3.17 "ToysRn'tUs"
CBS' Mom - Episode 4.16 "Martinis and a Sponge Bath"

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.

Superior Donuts - "Arthur's Day Off"
When Arthur grudgingly takes a vacation day, Randy and Fawz try to show him there's more to life than work. Franco sets out to prove he has what it takes to run the donut shop in Arthur's absence. Written by Emily Wilson and directed by James Burrows

As I've said before, Superior Donuts follows the same structure in every episode so far. Arthur and Franco have differing views on how to do something. They argue about it but ultimately learn they need to compromise in order to have a successful business. That's still the formula in this episode. And yet, this one doesn't seem solely defined by it. Plus, it has more fun with the characters while also doing a better job at defining them. It's great to see Arthur outside of the job. He is defined so much by being the cranky owner of a donut shop. So, it's amusing to see him not sure what to do with a day off - and ultimately just getting high. Moreover, it's great to see Franco realize just how difficult it is being a boss. He can have the greatest intentions but can be incredibly naive as well. He has solid ideas and one does pay off in the end. He just needs to find a better way to channel his ideas while still running a successful business. It's ultimately two steps forward and one step back. But that's still improvement. B

The Mindy Project - "Dibs"
A heartbroken Anna grieves her breakup at Mindy's place, while Jody and Jeremy compete for her affection. Morgan, trying to jump-start his dating life, blows up at Colette's new girlfriend, Karen, when she accidentally interrupts his make out session. Written by Lang Fisher and directed by Michael Spiller

The episodes of The Mindy Project where Mindy isn't an active character are typically pretty boring or bad. Not even a Danny road trip episode could muster much excitement. That's how important she is as a character. In "Dibs" though, she's just a minor supporting character. She actively works to get Jeremy and Anna together. But she doesn't face any repercussions for that action. She's not a main focus of the story. The potential couple is. That is a good thing. Plus, it's great to see Mindy and Jeremy as actual friends. Jeremy is one of the few characters who's been on the show for its entire run. So you'd think he and Mindy would have a better dynamic. But largely, he's defined by the same kind of joke over and over again. It's great to see him get an active story with him pursuing what he wants. But it's also great that Anna gets that big speech saying co-workers don't need to date one another. That's completely true and empowering. And yet, that moment is undercut immediately by the reveal that she is secretly doing Jeremy's puzzle in her office. So, I guess there is a future to that coupling. That's intriguing. Meanwhile, the less said about Morgan's story the better. It's just too broad and bad. C+

black-ish - "ToysRn'tUs"
Janine gives Diane a white Girlstory doll for her birthday, and when Bow tries to return it for a black doll, she is shocked by the limited options offered. Dre blames the lack of representation of African Americans in the media, but when confronting this systematic problem, he realizes that he has prejudices of his own. Ruby enlists the help of Junior to be her Spades partner. Written by Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry and directed by Oz Scott

Across three seasons now, black-ish has been a very socially-conscious show. It tackles subject matter in a timely way that could be frightening to a number of other shows. But it's also fascinating and clever to see the show confront the characters' own biases in an episode such as this. It doesn't totally work. But it's a fine experiment nevertheless. Perhaps it's problematic because it is so disjointed. The episode covers three storylines. The stuff going on with Ruby and the kids largely just feels like giving those characters something to do for the week. Meanwhile, it's exciting to see Bow stand up for fair representation but her efforts cross a line. She's a great role model for the kids but she also does something incredibly reckless and dangerous this week. Meanwhile, Dre realizing that he may be a colorist is an important moment that perhaps doesn't have enough time to fully develop. It's absolutely true. The audience should know that long before it is clearly stated in this episode. And now, the other characters at the office are established enough to really call Dre out on his behavior and his need to make everything into a bigger issue. Again, fair and equal representation is important. But so are the ways that bring such efforts to the forefront. B-

Mom - "Martinis and a Sponge Bath"
When Christy and Adam get into a car accident, Bonnie is hurt to discover she is neither of their emergency contacts. Directed by James Widdoes with story by Nick Bakay, Susan McMartin & Sheldon Bull and teleplay by Alissa Neubauer, Warren Bell & Adam Chase

Across the series, Christy has always been normal compared to her mother. The show has always been aware that they both do crazy things though. Bonnie is just the more outrageous one of the two. The addition of Adam to the narrative also highlights how crazy that can all seem to someone who doesn't see the world the same way. He's the guy who fills up his gas tank when the fuel light turns on. He doesn't risk it like Christy and Bonnie. That's an amusing joke. But it's also a fine setup for this episode where Bonnie's insecurities are on full display as a mother and girlfriend. Of course, she's not really good at either. She flees Christy multiple times to be with Adam. That then leads to Christy taking care of Jill instead of the other way around. Meanwhile, Bonnie is still trapped in her power struggle with Danielle over Adam. Danielle has proven to be a fun addition as of late. She's someone who can really go toe-to-toe with Bonnie. That's a great new dynamic. Bonnie had the upper hand when she first threatened Danielle in the previous episode. But now, Danielle proves that she's not to be messed with either. And the grand joke of it all is the prize being Adam, who is just a normal, average guy caught in all of this craziness. B