Wednesday, November 20, 2019

REVIEW: 'Mad About You' - Mabel Pushes Away Her Overbearing and Always Present Mother in 'Restraining Orders and Puppies'

Spectrum's Mad About You - Episode 8.02 "Restraining Orders and Puppies"

After too many surprise dorm visits, Mabel forces Jamie to sign a contract limiting contact for the next 48 hours, and suddenly Paul finds himself in the parenting hot seat.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Spectrum's Mad About You.

"Restraining Orders and Puppies" was written by Julie Mandel-Folly and directed by Betsy Thomas

Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are some incredibly talented performers. Their chemistry is electric as well. It's so nice and relaxed when they are interacting with each other here. However, this episode gives both of them some extremely broad and hacky material to work with. It's not all that original either. It feels like typical story beats a viewer can get from so many other shows. Jamie is the overbearing mother who keeps pestering her child despite Mabel's objections and independence as a young adult. Meanwhile, Paul is the hapless dad who has no idea how to parent when those responsibilities suddenly fall onto him. These are familiar character tropes. It doesn't help the show feel unique and refreshed at the start of these new episodes. It just feels like the creative team going through the motions with typical stories to relax back into this world. That's unfortunate. The show certainly has the time to explore the lives of these characters more deeply. Instead, it is more pleased with Jamie getting drunk and stealing a dog while Mabel tries to smother her roommate in her sleep because she takes her father's advice seriously. It's all bad and fairly outrageous. No matter how skilled the performers it feels like a shtick being performed to an audience instead of coming across as actual human behavior. That is always the most difficult thing to pull off in sitcoms. The conversations and comedic situations need to feel real even though they are also heightened with the presence of audience laughter. But there is nothing inherently funny about Paul lamenting having to turn in a more fun catheter commercial. That mostly just highlights how his career as a director is no longer as robust and inspiring as it used to be. He would love to remember the good old days in which he was seen as a rising talent. Instead, this is the work available to him where he makes corny jokes at the expense of his clients. It's not all that good. Meanwhile, Mabel believes she has to get her mother to sign a legal contract in order to stop her from coming over to the dorm all the time. The show even heightens the tension further by establishing a group of empty nesters that Jamie gets invited to join. It highlights the absurdity of her situation and how she shouldn't be feeling these extreme emotions. She wants to be protective and caring. And yet, she would seem unstable if she let the rest of the group know that Mabel has only moved five blocks away. That is a huge distance for Jamie. She can't adapt to her daughter no longer being in her daily life. The number of texts Mabel sends Paul may be indicative of just how codependent this family actually is. And yet, Mabel doesn't exactly feel like a multi-dimensional character yet. Her tension with her roommate is understood. It's just the show going to an extreme place to tell this story. That's not necessary. It's all about people being uncomfortable with vibrators and the strangeness of sleeping with one's eyes open. That is more typical to a sitcom plot than something that genuinely occurs in the world. It's not uncommon. It does occur. It just doesn't feel like something where the audience can invest in how the situation develops. It goes to a serious place where Mabel has to appear in front of the dean and review board. That shows an eagerness for her parents to continue fighting her battles. They can no longer do that though. She has to stand on her own. Paul and Jamie have to figure out how to live their lives now. That may mean transferring some of this emotional attachment to a new dog. One just keeps getting swapped out for another. They may land on the perfect new member to their family. But again, it's alienating just how weird this family interacts with each other and the lack of consequences they actually have to deal with in the world around them. Mabel can make jokes about almost smothering her roommate and the dean is more or less fine with that in the end. It's more important that Paul and Jamie are on the same team even though Jamie's actions come across as someone dealing with depression. The show doesn't want to linger on those concerns in a serious or engaging way though. That's disappointing because the show has the time to actively explore those meaningful issues.