Before we get into the review, here’s a multiple choice for your consideration:
With the new Sunday-and-Tuesday schedule for Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 and Happy Endings, ABC is aiming to _______________________:
B. Burn off the shows’ remaining new episodes, so that it’ll be a clean break in March when they’re both replaced on Tuesday nights by Dancing With The Stars.
C. Give the shows once last chance to gather an audience by taking them out of competition (at least, for one night a week) with Fox’s New Girl and The Mindy Project. (One might even say that Fox is this show’s… nemesis?)
D. Take advantage of the Serious TV People Talk About Seriously timeslot while it’s briefly unoccupied—Breaking Bad, Homeland, Girls, and Mad Men totally forgot to call fives—and hope that any people who have developed a Pavlovian turn-on-the-TV response to Sunday nights don’t want to watch The Mentalist.
E. Patch the failure hole left by 666 Park Avenue.
F. Punish Emily for saying “No, baby, I swear, my schedule will be way more manageable starting in January” and neglecting to knock on wood.
G. DO SOMETHING, BY GOD! DO ANYTHING!
H. All/none of the above.
Feel free to discuss in the comments, because at this point ABC’s treatment of this show (and Happy Endings, though I know less about it) has been so confusing that I’m leaning toward G or H.
Now, on to the episode itself: DUDE, JUNE LITERALLY STABBED THAT GIRL IN THE BACK. (Right in her Flintstones tattoo!)
After a run of season-one-reject episodes, Apartment 23’s return tonight seemed great in comparison. Looking at it out of that context, the episode wasn’t the funniest the show’s ever been, but it did have one great example of what I’ve come to enjoy most about the show—its ability to blindside me with stuff I should have seen coming from a million miles away.
Because watching again, June (accidentally) sticking a knife into office nemesis Fox Paris is actually foreshadowed pretty heavily, given that this is a half-hour show. There are all the themes of backstabbing, there’s June’s earlier statement that she’s going to “kill [Fox]… “(Chloe delight) “…with kindness” (Chloe disappointment), and there’s that bizarrely large and sharp cake knife. But I didn’t anticipate the actual stabbing even a little bit, and was completely delighted by it, and even more so that instead of that causing June to be fired yet again like you’d expect, it seems to make everyone respect her cutthroat work ethic.
Because the episode order has been messed around with so much, the last thing we saw before the holidays was supposed to be the first-season finale, and “A Weekend In The Hamptons...” felt very much like it was closing a couple doors and opening a couple more. So though it’s technically well into the second season (and even though there’s another season-one episode scheduled for Tuesday, and JESUS CHRIST YOU GUYS, I CAN’T EVEN KEEP UP WITH THIS STUFF ANYMORE), “Paris...” feels like a season premiere, with new stuff starting and the old stuff out the door. Dancing With The Stars is completely over, as is (I believe) Robin; Mark’s finally resolved to pursue June, and June’s left It’s Just Beans for a financial job from which she is not fired by the end of the episode.
The last one is the most significant, obviously. A legit Wall Street job means June won’t actually need Chloe anymore—she’ll be making enough money to move out at any time, and won’t have all that free time to learn the Way Of The Party Girl. It also opens up a couple possible new recurring characters in the office. Because even though watching the developing relationships of Mark, June, Chloe, and JVDB has been enough for me so far, there are inherent limits to having only a few main characters.
Fox seems like a good bet for a recurring office character. The way her character is introduced parallels Chloe’s introduction in the pilot (minus stitches): She pulls a fake-nice con on June, gets the rug pulled out from under her when June figures it out, ends up giving June some grudging respect, and ends the episode by calling an uneasy truce. “I know this girl; I am this girl” says Chloe, even accurately predicting Fox’s nonsensical wig and tattoo, and the ridiculousness of Fox repeatedly applying a cupcake to her ass while making kissy noises is very reminiscent of Chloe.
It’s fun, then, to see how the doppelgangers interact, sort of like a pre-Crisis DC comic where someone pops over to Earth-Two and hangs out with him or her self. The show only needs one Chloe, but it’s funny to watch how famously the two get along, so much so that I kept thinking of that bit in Redshirts where (spoilers for a book that’s been out for a while) a narcissistic guy and his double instantly fall in love despite being straight.
There’s a lot of second-string potential in Mr. Harkin, too—I love both how comically credulous he is (instantly believing that June put a cupcake on Fox’s chair and that June was the only one to not chip in for his birthday present) and his bizarre rage over bagels in the conference room. As Robin seems to be gone and the writers still can’t figure out what to do with Eli aside from what was probably the initial pitch for the character—“like Wilson on Home Improvement, but likelier to be secretly masturbating while dispensing sage advice”—it seems like the show could use some relief characters in its bullpen. And with both Harkin and Fox back in next Sunday’s episode, according to ABC, the office might be where the backup comes from.
Like all June episodes, “Paris...” had the big downside of sidelining JVDB and Chloe, the characters with the most potential to carry the show up to its batshit-crazy peaks. Neither Krysten Ritter nor James Van Der Beek get much from the writers to work with this week, with a few exceptions like JVDB’s confusion about the definition of “lay one on her” and Chloe’s creation of the fake firm Parkis & Sons (“Sounds bad out loud, doesn’t it”). But both actors use extreme physical silliness to make up for their lack of lines.
Van Der Beek in particular has a few really funny wordless moments—particularly his furrowed-brow hand motions trying to feel out the real-life possibilities of that time in fifth grade when Becky Shaw started a rumor that June’s boobs came in upside-down, and then with his face in both the extended realization about his acting coach and again in the silly wordless coda with him in his boxer briefs on the front steps. (Related: Dude is looking pretty good, amirite?) And Chloe’s game-face-off with Fox was pretty gold, too.
But despite its lack of Chloe and JVDB, “Paris...”, particularly the stabbing of the title character, was a nice way to turn over a new leaf—new year, new time slot, new situations, new characters, new possibilities. Seems like a smart way to set things up for the future. There may not be much chance of a future for this show at this point, if I’m interpreting the TV tea leaves correctly, but let’s see how this Sunday-night thing plays out. Life, like this show, sometimes can pull surprises you don’t see coming even a little bit.
- Bet you can’t say “TV tea leaves” five times fast.
- UNWARRANTED PUN: “How about this—I’m going to miss you… a latte.” I wish that I had a real-life UNWARRANTED PUN flag I could throw up like a yellow card.
- Another example of the strong female viewpoint of the show: The vibrators Chloe leaves randomly strewn around the apartment are Hitachi Magic Wands rather than dong-shaped ones.
- Oh, man, I haven’t thought about Fannypack (who did the “718” song that played after Fox’s “You from Queens?”) since I was in college!
- Heh, the going-away card that Mark agonizes over is comically sparse on the inside when we get a quick look at it, which makes sense when you consider there’s only, like, three employees at Beans, including weirdo Pepper who yells “Jube’s” order.
- “As an actor, I know everything there is to know about writing. I also know everything there is to know about medicine, being a fireman… and an astronaut.” Sounds like someone in the writer’s room has some beef left over from somewhere.
- June’s response to Mark’s very serious “I think James Van Der Beek was molested by his acting coach” is, judging by her hand motions, to ignore him and start talking about how she stabbed a bitch.
- Which, incidentally, feels like chicken.