Saturday, April 22, 2017

COMEDY ROUNDUP: 'Superior Donuts,' 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine,' 'Trial & Error' and 'Superstore' (April 16-20)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from April 16-20:

CBS' Superior Donuts - Episode 1.11 "Wage Against the Machine"
FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 4.14 "Serve & Protect"
NBC's Trial & Error - Episodes 1.12 "The Defense Rests" and 1.13 "The Verdict"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.19 "Spring Cleaning"

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 - "Wage Against the Machine"
Franco takes a second job as Fawz's assistant to make extra money. Randy and James compete against each other to see who can win a coveted cash prize at work. Written by Aaron Vaccaro & Mark Melara and directed by James Burrows

This episode has the fun visuals of Franco dropping his computer into a deep fryer and Fawz disappearing through a full dry cleaning rack. And yet, the rest of it felt a little too conventional and formulaic. Of course, that's still a good feeling to have as the show heads into the end of its season. It shows that the series has a rhythm and understands itself. The main story is just still ultimately about Franco's presence at the store forcing Arthur to do things a different way. Plus, the show doesn't do a whole lot with the concept of minimum wage not being a living wage. The resolution is just way too simple for Franco. He gets an extra $275 a month and that suddenly fixes all of his problems. That didn't totally work. However, it is nice to see James finally win one over Randy. That dynamic has hit the same beat for most of the season. Randy is constantly making fun of James. So, it's nice to see that come back to hurt her - even though he's ultimately a nice guy in the end too. B

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Serve & Protect"
Terry's ex replaces Teddy in evaluating the precinct, but Jake and Rosa are distracted by a burglary case that occurred on the set of one of their favorite detective TV shows. As the rest of the Nine-Nine concentrate on the audit (and Terry's past relationship strategies), Jake and Rosa pass time with the series star and producer, who meddle in the case and charm Jake with the glamour of show business. Written by Andrew Guest & Alexis Wilkinson and directed by Michael Schur

The midseason return was a strong episode because it was all about the precinct working together for a common goal. That was abundantly clear. The detectives are still dealing with the audit here. But the stories of this episode feel more scattered and not fully formed. The main story with Jake and Rosa largely feels like a spoof of The Grinder. This time it's with Nathan Fillion instead of Rob Lowe. And yet, Fillion is given very little to do. Plus, the story itself just doesn't have the amount of time to do much because this is a three story episode. Of course, the final joke with Jake getting a character named after him on the show he loves but it being a super gross guy who gets shot a hundred times is hilarious. The two subplots ultimately didn't do much either. And yet, it did pair Holt and Boyle together. They haven't had many stories across four seasons. This one gave us the hilarious moment of the two of them discussing what to do with their eyebrows when they try to blackmail someone. Of course, it doesn't ultimately help with the audit in the end though. So, that's still an important threat for the future. B

Trial & Error - "The Defense Rests" & "The Verdict"
As Josh focuses on making his final case before closing arguments, he takes a huge gamble by putting Larry on the stand. Despite hiring the best witness coach in the South to train him, Larry's testimony leads to a shocking discovery about Larry's past that may be too difficult to overcome. The trial is over and the verdict is finally announced. A key piece of evidence is found that answers the question, "Who killed Margaret Henderson?" "The Defense Rests" written by Jeff Astrof & Bill Callahan and directed by Matt Sohn. "The Verdict" written by Jeff Astrof and directed by Jeffrey Blitz

Trial & Error proved itself to be one incredible binge. It's definitely weird how NBC is airing two or three episodes a week for a few comedies this spring. This show only started in March and it's already done for the season. That could make it seem like a burn-off. The ratings could be better. And yet, the creative has been incredibly strong. This was a fantastic first season. The ending really worked. The absurdity continued to be great in both of these final episodes. Larry taking the stand would seem like a bad idea and it was. But it was also Josh's last effort to prove Larry's innocence. Plus, it's fantastic to see how strong the relationship between Josh and Larry has gotten this season. That's the heart of the show. It was rough in the early going because most of the comedy was defined by Josh being a fish out of water in this town. But now, he's just as eccentric as the rest of the team - with his chanting of "Murder Board!" and looks at the camera whenever someone brings up his sexual relationship with Carol Anne. But it's also incredibly moving in that last episode when Larry is found guilty and taken away to prison. It's also rewarding to see the truth revealed. It's absurd as well. Margaret was killed by an owl! That means Dwayne was right in the very first episode! That's crazy but also very fitting for this show. It's also nice to see everyone commit to this team moving forward. They need each other in their lives. And now, they have a new murder to investigate in East Peck. So, all of the pieces are there for a Season 2. If it doesn't happen though, this was a pretty satisfying ending to the season. Plus, that Andie MacDowell cameo is fantastic. A

Superstore - "Spring Cleaning"
Amy and Garrett embark on an investigation as they sift through abandoned photos during the store's spring cleaning. Jonah goes out of his way to woo Glenn in hopes of gaining his approval. Cheyenne's fiancé, Bo, starts working at Cloud 9 for some fast cash, taking advantage of Dina and Mateo's in-store intel. Written by Josh Malmuth and directed by Geeta V. Patel

As a character, Bo has always been very annoying. He was one of my biggest problems with the show when I gave it a lukewarm review before its first season. It's great that the actor booked another show this season so that he wasn't on this one as much. And yet, he still returns here. It's also unclear what the audience is suppose to want with Cheyenne and Bo. He is such a one-note, annoying and broad character. That stands out in an ensemble that has gotten more nuanced over two seasons. When Cheyenne mentions problems with her dad, that's the story I'm interested in learning more about. Not the continuing back-and-forth over whether or not Cheyenne and Bo will get married. I'm really don't care about that at all - even though they have a baby offscreen as well. Elsewhere, Glenn in a Mexican restaurant didn't really work for me. That character always walks a fine line with his obliviousness. That sequence just hit the same joke over and over again. It never was that great. Of course, him learning that layoffs are coming should be very fascinating to watch over the final episodes of the season. And finally, Amy and Garrett's story was good but not great or all that interesting. B-