Saturday, January 6, 2018

REVIEW: 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Black-ish' and 'Superstore' (January 2-6)

Various comedy reviews for January 2-6, 2018:

ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 4.11 "Big Baby"
ABC's Black-ish - Episode 4.10 "Working Girl"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 3.08 "Viral Video"

In 2018, it's impossible to watch every scripted show out there. There are over 450 of them. It's even more impossible to even provide adequate coverage of some of them. Great shows slip through the cracks. Some shows take awhile to figure themselves out. So as a way for me to provide more coverage of various shows, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes from January 2-6, 2018. Enjoy!

Fresh Off the Boat - "Big Baby"
Honey is excited to attend a parenting class that encourages moms to listen to their babies taught by self-proclaimed child sage, Wilhelmina Page (Niecy Nash), but when her mother, Anne (Cheryl Hines), ridicules the idea, it exposes communication issues of their own. When Honey turns to Jessica for support, she is disappointed to find that her best friend doesn't have her back. Louis and Marvin are thrilled when they get to go on the free cruise their wives won on Wheel of Fortune, but their boys' trip quickly turns into a gambling getaway gone south. Eddie's friends are wary of his new crush at school. Written by Sheng Wang and directed by Jude Weng

There ultimately feels like too much plot going on in this episode. As such, it feels like the two big guest stars only have a few fleeting moments to make much of an impression. Of the two, Cheryl Hines has more to do as Honey's mom. Niecy Nash is basically playing a thankless role that she makes slightly amusing because of her line readings. But this is ultimately a story about the relationship between Honey and her mom with Jessica wanting to be supportive of her friend despite her own parenting ideas. It's a story that doesn't end in a neatly resolved place for Honey and her mother. Anne just decides to leave town because she doesn't ultimately want to connect with Honey as an adult and mother-to-be. But Jessica is still there to support her. That's nice. It just doesn't feel like there is enough time to truly let this story develop into something because the episode has to cutaway to Marvin and Louis' adventure as well as Eddie's latest romance. With those two subplots, the cruise story is more effective because it has that great comedic payoff of someone falling overboard. The Eddie story is an intriguing idea - with this new girl seemingly being only attracted to Asian men - that feels compressed in just a few minutes of the episode. B

Black-ish - "Working Girl"
Bow struggles to adjust as she returns to work after maternity leave. Ruby gives the twins a "workaround" plan to get out of doing homework. Written by Lindsey Shockley and directed by Michael Spiller

This episode makes it clear that Black-ish and its forthcoming spinoff Grown-ish want to line up continuity-wise. Zoey isn't in much of this episode. However, it does close with the family moving her into her college dorm room, with tonight being the premiere of her spinoff. Again, this probably isn't necessary whatsoever because Black-ish does 24 episodes a year and Grown-ish will only do 13. But it's clearly important to the shows despite being a very minor moment here. Elsewhere, this episode continues the show's fondness for addressing a serious story about parenting and working. Bow returns to work and everyone is talking about whether or not she should do this. It's an important and moving story when it focuses on Bow and this being her personal decision. It also highlights the privilege the Johnsons have that it can even be a question at all. All of the stuff with Dre forcing Bow into staying at home doesn't really work. This story isn't about him. It's also important that the show points out how this is Bow's decision. She doesn't fail when she returns to work. She doesn't fall flat on her face and retreats home to the environment where she is more comfortable at the moment. It instead plays as it being her decision for what's best for her life at this moment in time. That's what makes this overall episode special. B+

Superstore - "Viral Video"
After a Cloud 9 employee posts a controversial video online, Dina enlists Cheyenne to help police the rest of the staff's social media accounts. Amy learns something about Jonah that drives her to desperately pursue Instagram views. Glenn suspects Mateo of rewards card fraud. Written by Jonathan Green and directed by Ken Whittingham

The main plot of this episode has a fatal flaw to it that really took me out of the story. It is established in the first few minutes that the employee who posted the video of himself farting into cups was fired because of it. That was clear and distinct consequence to that action. But then, Amy posts a video that showcases rats crawling in some undesired places in the store. That seems like a significantly worse scandal. And yet, it would be too unreasonable to expect Amy to be fired. She should be because this scandal would be bad for the company. There is some biting commentary in this story about corporate only condemning the behavior in the videos instead of talking about responsibility on social media platforms. It's reacting instead of being proactive about the situation. That's perfectly fine. But again, the consequences are lacking in this story. It's instead about Amy being uncomfortable by the appearance of happiness for Jonah and Kelly. That's not bad either even though it was the predictable twist that was always going to happen in the new love triangle. It just made more of the overall story have less of an impact than it should. The resolution with the Glenn-Mateo story is weird as well. It's basically treated as an afterthought or final punchline that Glenn baptizes Mateo at his megachurch. That has the potential to include some repercussions in the future. It too is told through a story of employee responsibility of not gaming the system for one's own benefit. But again, the execution is just off and makes it less enjoyable overall. B-