Saturday, April 8, 2017

COMEDY ROUNDUP: 'The Last Man on Earth,' 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'black-ish,' 'Superstore' and 'Mom' (April 2-6)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from April 2-6:

FOX's The Last Man on Earth - Episode 3.14 "Point Person Knows Best"
ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 3.18 "Time to Get Ill"
ABC's black-ish - Episode 3.20 "What Lies Beneath"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.18 "Glenn's Kids"
CBS' Mom - Episode 4.18 "Tush Push and Some Radishes"

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 - "Point Person Knows Best"
Tandy tries to take charge of a new situation that has unfolded in the group. Carol is suspicious of Todd's behavior. Written by Jeff Vanderkruik and directed by Maggie Carey

Children have been looming over The Last Man on Earth for a very long time now. Carol has talked about the need to repopulate the Earth since she first met Tandy. And now, both Carol and Erica are pregnant. Of course, those pregnancies aren't moving very quickly. So, it's fascinating to see the show explore how these characters are as parents. Unsurprisingly, Tandy is pretty horrible. But it's also a very familiar story of him doing these outlandish things to overcompensate for his personal feelings on the subject. It just feels too familiar to work all that well. Plus, the humor of the show plays differently now that a child is involved. And yet, Tandy and Erica do have a nice moment in the end. Plus, this has the potential to be a very engaging story for Erica, who hasn't had many over the series run. Meanwhile, Carol worrying about Todd and Gail hooking up again is just a lame and pointless story. The most humorous moments of this episode come from Melissa and the side effects she's experiencing from her pills. That's an amusing visual. B-

Fresh Off the Boat - "Time to Get Ill"
When Jessica tries to sleep off a bad flu, Louis and the boys splurge on a pricey pay-per-view wrestling match that she would never allow. As they watch the match in silence, taking every precaution to ensure Jessica's recovery is not disturbed, they are shocked to learn that she was secretly having some fun of her own. Written by Eric Ziobrowski and directed by Chris Addison

Jessica appearing all knowing and all controlling of the family is a familiar concept for the show. And yet, this episode finds a new twist on that formula by taking her out of commission with an illness. It's great that everyone is surprised it happens too. Jessica doesn't get sick. This is the first time it's ever happened. It's also great that the show doesn't go to the conventional route of having everything fall apart because Jessica isn't the responsible parent for a day. The rest of the family is capable of keeping their lives and the house together for this short amount of time. Instead, the story is about them cutting loose just a little bit. It's not this big or over-the-top thing that quickly gets out of control. Yes, it is funny watching the viewing party for the wrestling match get larger and larger. Plus, they have to be quiet. But the reveal that Jessica was at the actual event was pretty great and surprising. Sure, the ending was a bit predictable with Jessica trying to control her family less. That probably won't stick longterm. But it's a nice thought nonetheless. B+

black-ish - "What Lies Beneath"
Dre's sister Rhonda is in town, and he feels a little jealous of her close relationship with Pops. Dre and Bow urge Zoey to take Junior to a high school party, and things get out of hand. The twins feel like they're soon to be forgotten, so they decide to live life to the fullest. Written by Jessica Potter and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller

This episode confronts the labels that this family has for each other. It's not the most subtle or interesting story the show has ever told. In fact, it's done most of these stories in different variations before. Dre has been faced with the fact that his mother isn't a saint before. Bow's expectations for her children have been challenged before. People think Zoey will do some irresponsible action only for her to reveal herself as a really smart kid. All of this isn't new. And yet, this episode still feels fresh and funny. Yes, the subplot with the twins is a little empty. But that montage of them being able to get away with anything in the house is pretty fun. Similarly, Junior seems like this broad and over-the-top character at the party. But the twist of him eating marijuana is fantastic. The paranoia that creeps in is pretty amusing to watch - especially when he calls his mother. Dre has some broad reactions as well. But it also just confirms how dim and ignorant to the truth he can be when it involves Ruby. B

Superstore - "Glenn's Kids"
Glenn invites all of his kids to the store causing disorder among the employees. Jonah develops a romantic interest in Glenn's 25-year-old daughter, and Amy gets caught in the middle. Garrett, Dina and Cheyenne struggle to keep track of one of the toddlers. Mateo tricks the kids into working for him as he grapples with life after Jeff. Written by Sierra Teller Ornelas and directed by Ruben Fleischer

Glenn's family life has been the source of many recurring jokes over the series run so far. It was unclear if the audience would ever meet those characters. Would it simply be funnier to never see them because there's no way the reality matches what all has been said about them? And yet, there's something about seeing all of Glenn's kids in this episode that is great. There's like 14 of them and only 6 are really important to this episode. But the visual shows that Glenn is a great father even though he's a simple man who loves pleasing people. Plus, his wife doesn't appear. She's a character who I don't think could ever show up because it would inevitably feel like a letdown after everything said about their relationship. Elsewhere, how many times is the show going to tell a story about Jonah flirting with an attractive young woman at the store? That's been the basis for his story so many times this season. It all ultimately comes back to the potential of an Amy-Jonah romance. But that still feels too forced and awkward to be all that genuine. At least the subplot with Cheyenne, Dina and Garrett was fun. It worked because the audience was always aware of what Bobby Sue was doing. She was never in much danger. B+

Mom - "Tush Push and Some Radishes"
Following the death of Bonnie's mother, Christy and Bonnie learn that she kept a very big secret. Directed by James Widdoes with story by Marco Pennette & Susan McMartin and teleplay by Eddie Gorodetsky & Nick Bakay

 introduced Bonnie's mother in the third season premiere. She showed up to reconnect and also say that she was dying. Of course, the third season would later be defined by the death of a different character. And now, the show is far enough removed from that event to kill off Bonnie's mother. And yet, the actual story of this episode is very similar to what was done in the previous episode when she was actually alive. Bonnie had to come to terms with her mother abandoning her at a young age and forcing her to grow up in foster care. She has spent a lifetime of blaming her for how her life turned out. That graveside scene is very strong too. It all just feels a little too familiar and based in emotional material the show has dealt with before. The surprise of Bonnie having a half-brother is amusing. However, is he going to become a fixture in their lives? Or will he simply be another relative who shows up once only to never show up again? Like Bonnie's mother and Christy's half-siblings? The potential is there for more. He may be important in the future because he's a lawyer just like Christy wants to be. But it's unclear just how serious the audience should take this twist. B+