This episode was built around a pretty stock sitcom premise, which is a great thing. The show has been moving forward at a pretty fast pace, it’s nice to see it settle into itself a bit. And where it settled is a very Laverne & Shirley, very I Love Lucy, modern shenaniganfest. They know the dialogue and the chemistry is what makes the show special so as to not be too nuts, the rest is pretty classic.
There cold opens are perfect examples of this as they are partly the more traditional, plot-explaining type and partly the more contemporary, big crazy scene type. Last night that meant Jess interrupting Lenn as she shellacked the stand for Joe’s Dad’s signed basketball retirement gift. Lenn explains that she needs to impress Joe’s mother so she sadly can’t eat Poppycock and watch Losing Face - Facing Yourself, the too graphic Lifetime movie about a woman who gets shot in the face by her ex-husband. The calm before the storm begat the storm and there is a knock on the door – Joe and his parents are back early and the place is in shambles! There is a lot scurrying until Jess in an act of desperation decides to give Lenn her bra. Halfway through doing so, of course, the family walks in on the girls all-a-tangle of arms and clothes and areolas (best in Brooklyn).
Of course J.K. Simmons and Mimi Kennedy (Pause: Doesn’t “J.K. Simmons & Mimi Kennedy” sound like the name of an old vaudeville duo? It does. Thanks. Unpause.) play Joe’s parents because they are the sitcomiest parents a sitcom could ever ask for. J.K. is the quiet sort of dad who only says four words, “Where is the can,” and Mimi is the bitchy mom, Marilyn – both traditional archetypes but that’s the point. Marilyn tells Lenn, she’ll e-mail her a list of things to do and the rest of the episode plays out mostly as you’d imagine it.
Time to tackle that list. Jess is happy to help by washing Lenn’s bras and baking off some cinnamon roles – ok, not the cinnamon roles – just a couple cinnamon roles – it’s mostly her trying to kill time so she doesn’t have to read her sad divorcee mail. But there is no time for frightening mail as all of her stuff from San Francisco is being dropped off, which doesn’t seem like it would fit in a two bedroom Brooklyn brownstone, especially when they are locked out. They got locked out? Yep! Let the fun begin.
Lenn goes running off, Jess chases, only to find her climbing up the fire escape. Does her belt loop get stuck on the ladder? You know it, which stinks, but the good news is Jess gets to finally go to the fire department. Well, after she figures out how to maximize the sex appeal of multi-colored tights, a green hoody, and bar mitzvah boxers. Lenn explains she just needs to cinch the waste – men love natural proportions – and off Jess she runs to get Lieutenant Newby.
Newby is here to save the day – hooray! Oh no, the cinnamon roles are burning – booray¡ Newby fire extinguishes the whole kitchen, ruining the signed basketball and really the whole day. AAAAAhhhhh! (Not to be that guy who references Chekov’s gun but how Chekhovian were those cinnamon roles? Super Chekhovian.) This sets off their weekly screaming fight. The screaming is probably the hardest thing to get used when watching the show. It’s honest to how friends might interact, especially these two, but it’s a hard tonal balance. This week they used the fact that Newby was standing in the room to cut some of the tension but it definitely wasn’t the funniest of their screaming scenes – Lennon just needs to start saying, “shove this jammers up your buttholes” at the end of every one. Until then, we are forced to move on based on the sheer will of Queenetta and the inspiration of Brenda Lee Johnson from The Closer. Queenetta is told to sell all of Jess’s stuff in an impromptu stoop sale and Jess and Rav go off save the day.
At Joe’s Dad’s retirement party, Lenn shows up also to save the day. Joe’s Dad doesn’t want to party because he doesn’t want to retire so he went to sit at the hotel bar alone. Lenn is able to break him down with the best opening question you could ever ask a boyfriend’s dad, “How have you found the bathrooms to be in this hotel?” The scene that follows is really sweet, though a bit out of place. He is just not ready to retire and accept change. It’s very well written and well performed and draws nice parallels to Jess’s situation. It was an experiment of sorts, to see if the show can handle earnest diversions that underscore the themes of the episode. I think it worked but I can see how it wouldn’t be for everyone. Regardless, the J.K. is won over by Lenn’s charms (like the viewers) and he returns to the party. Then Jess brings Harlem Globetrotter/Old Harlem Globetrotter Curly Neal to the party to do fun basketball tricks and make everyone smile again.
It’s interesting that Jess and Lenn don’t really address the giant fight they just had. This is the second episode they’ve done this in a row and I have to imagine it’s intentional. This is a show about best friends who’ve known each other forever and it tries to be honest to what that relationship would be like. Best friends don’t have explicit happy ending, make up conversations after every fight.
I have seen the next couple episodes so I can say that this marks the end of the introduction phase of the series. Moving forward, the show gets very episodic and breezier. I won’t ignore that the ratings aren’t really there right now but the show has something special to it and I believe it’s writing style will influence shows for years to come. Also, for my fellow podcast nerds, there is going to be a reference to a certain podcast intern. Womp it up guys and keep on watching!