“Put A Pin In It” S1 / E3
- B Community Grade
Best Friends Forever is settling into its first season, and it’s becoming clear shenanigans are the name of the game—in a slightly unexpected way. That’s not to say that getting out of pickles isn’t oftentimes the currency of TV comedies. It’s just that there is still something nebulous about BFF and where it intends to go with its premise—an unexpected overlap of friend and boyfriend in close quarters—and how it will carve out its distinct personality along the way.
So far, it looks like there’s a real Lucy-and-Ethel-wreaking-havoc vibe winding its way through the show via the two lady leads, Jessica (St. Clair) and Lennon (Parham). Take last week, where Lennon and her boyfriend Joe hatched a plan to help their struggling friend feel useful again by pretending a bigwig restaurant reviewer was coming to their pal Rav’s bar. In this week’s episode, “Put A Pin In it,” the plot is driven by domino-effect debacles caused almost entirely by Jessica’s unwillingness to face the reality of her messy, new life.
We see that Jessica has now taken over Joe and Lennon’s too-cute apartment, letting her bras and underwear dangle from living room chairs whil her mail piles up on the counter. Lennon would probably care more about it all if she weren’t so consumed with putting the final touches on a retirement gift for Joe’s father (played by the truly delightful J.K. Simmons): a basketball signed by Patrick Ewing and a homemade wooden stand, lovingly shellacked by Jessica. The gift is meant to be the centerpiece of an elaborate retirement party put on by Joe’s mother, Marilyn, as well as a direct way for Lennon to finally win the affection of her boyfriend’s icy mom.
Of course, pulling off said gift giving and party planning doesn’t go smoothly in the least. Jessica is to blame, hands down, as she flits around in a spazzy fog and leaves a path of comical destruction in her wake. She accidentally locks herself and Len out of the apartment after a moving truck full of her furniture from San Francisco arrives unexpectedly at the couple’s doorstep. This is all before she sets Lennon’s kitchen ablaze via cinnamon rolls and, in a final coup de grâce, ruins the signed basketball when the fire is put out.
These kooky hiccups lead to a moment of clarity for the frazzled Jessica, particularly because her kindhearted best pal finally (!) reaches a breaking point and demands space. Meanwhile, Joe is using a parent outing to see The Lion King on Broadway to break the news to his mean-spirited mother that he’s quit his job to pursue video-game development on his own. Between the firefighter spraying down the apartment, Len getting trapped on a fire escape, Joe’s parents walking in on Jess without her shirt on, and other assorted hijinks, there’s a lot to cram into a single half-hour of television.
That’s not to say those gags and high-wire plot points aren’t fun to watch. The breezy exchanges and loving shorthand of the show’s two leads is the backbone of the show and completely earns moments like when Lennon is giving tips to Jessica—while hanging from a fire escape—on how to spruce up her fugly laundry day outfit before meeting firemen. But it does feel stuffed to the gills, all the same.
One of the biggest hurdles that remains is the fact that the show’s co-lead, Jessica, has yet to find a way to win over the audience. Her near-constant routine of playing the overwhelmed sad sack might be intended to read as endearing, but it paints her as a headache-inducing maniac at times. Lennon comes across a saint, by comparison, with her level-headedness and genuine desire to please the two people closest to her in addition to two cranky parents. A psychologist would be justified in deeming her a bit of a doormat but the payoff of her finally exploding at Jessica in the middle of an apartment covered with fire-retardant foam delivers a nice, empowering turn.
“Put A Pin In It” wraps up a bit too neatly as Lennon finally bonds with Joe’s parents, Joe comes clean about quitting his job, and Jessica saves the day by miraculously bringing in former Harlem Globetrotter Fred “Curly” Neal as a replacement for the ruined basketball (via a connection through her father). It’s rewarding to see Jessica brought down a peg by having to face reality in tandem with respecting her best friend’s life… for now.
There’s still a looming question mark about whether Lennon’s ping-ponging between her own needs and those of her best friend and boyfriend will settle into something else entirely. So many shows have used their initial premise as a jumping off point to follow the funny elsewhere. Take, for example, ABC’s current hit Happy Endings (which happens to feature Adam Pally, the actor who originally played Joe before Luka Jones took over the role), which started with the premise of a group of friends figuring out how to navigate the breakup of two primary members of their circle. The show rarely touches upon the breakup anymore and, instead, goofs off in different directions each week to resounding success. It would be exciting to see Best Friends Forever similarly use its unique premise to explore myriad directions while charting its own comedic course. Because, for all of the show’s earned and unearned shenanigans, there is a certain, underlying charm that can’t be shaken.