Another good pair, though I think so far "Monday June..." is my favorite of the last batch so far. (I’m watching in order.) Both have a common thread of relationships that look good on paper, and should work, but just... don’t, like they sometimes don’t.
It’s more of a minor thing in “Seven Year Bitch...,” in which Chloe’s immediate VETO of the good-on-paper Emily is in fact the right thing to do, as illustrated by JVDB showing up a day later having blithely gained 50 happiness pounds. (It’s cool, though; he’s a quick fat, but he’s a quick thin, too. Besides, Val Kilmer, Vince Vaughn, Steven Seagal!)
It’s a much bigger theme in “Using People,” the better of the two episodes, in which Mark and June figure out that they are not meant to be. I was surprised when I went back and checked at how late in the episode they actually hook up for the first time—about ⅔ of the way through—because the episode’s final third is what I remember rather Chloe and JVDB hanging out at AA and the writers meta-griping about it being hard to come up with new wacky drunk things for Chloe to do.
First, it’s funny to watch June and Mark’s ever-escalating attempts to prove that it’s the lack of wigs or voyeuristic squirrels behind the terrible sex they’re having rather than a deeper incompatibility. Second, I thought this was a very clever and graceful way for the writers to avoid having Mark and June stagnate—though I guess it doesn’t really matter now. There were several more-standard-sitcom ways to deal with that situation that weren’t very promising.
1. Holding pattern. That definitely would have gotten boring. Heck, it already was kind of boring. The writers have even sort of winked at the audience all “We know, we know” in previous episodes. In “Dating Games...,” when Mark agonizes over his feelings for June for the millionth time, JVDB expresses surprise that Mark hasn’t done something about that situation yet; JVDB then tries to spice up the plot of both his game show and the actual show-show by putting the facts on the table for June. Dragged-out will-they-or-won’t-they only barely avoids being excruciating if you’re Mulder and Scully or Sam and Diane; and here, the actors have had, like, negative chemistry from the beginning. And in this case, when there’s a clear power imbalance in the relationship, it’s kind of a bummer to watch.
2. Have Mark get another girlfriend and then June pine over him for a while. Ugh, I’m bored just typing that.
3. Have Mark move to Hungary or something. I was sort of thinking this would be the way they’d go with this—they’ve already been struggling to find ways to get Eric Andre onscreen now that June no longer works with him at the coffee shop, and it sometimes feels a little desperate. (Like his weird mobile coffee cart at June’s work in “Monday June.”) But then no Eric Andre!
4. Have them actually date. What, were Mark and June gonna be boyfriend-girlfriend? No. Aforementioned negative chemistry, and the Chloe/June/JVDB vibe was working fine already, and would not have been improved by mixing in a lot more of Mark’s sort of innocent, dorky shtick.
5. Have them realize that they should actually just be friends. I didn’t expect them to actually do this, because while this is a sitcom that frequently plays against expectations, it’s still a sitcom. And when sitcoms do a long-developing romance arc, they often seem to view the actual sex part in a similar way to people who save their virginity for their wedding night: as an afterthought. Whatever, it’ll be the best ever! It’s sex, right? And they love each other, right? Cut to blowing curtains and the happy morning after!
I can never tell whether this show is revolutionarily honest about, you know, Sex In The Modern Era or whether it is just coincidentally true to my own specific experience. (It’s the same with how I’m completely unfit to discuss Girls with anyone—I went to college with Lena and I find her post-Oberlin-esque characters that everyone seems to find so weird a bit too familiar, so I tend to have a really different experience of her stuff than most people.) But whether it’s just me or whether that spoke to a whole lot of people in the same way, it’s kind of comforting to see a situation in which two people have a standard sitcom lead-up to a great-on-paper relationship, only to discover that though they're perfectly capable of having great sex with other people, they’re horrendously awkward in bed with each other.
I don’t recall seeing a sitcom take the “terrible sex” route without making it obviously and comically one party’s fault—pulling out a furry costume on the first date, etc.—though sitcoms are admittedly not my bread and butter. So I thought it was especially effective that whoever was directing this made the interesting choice of asking Eric Andre and Dreama Walker to get kind of real. Not with the sex part, obviously; with the sadness and frustration parts. Both of them actually seemed on the verge of tears in that last scene, and though this is a show that’s usually pretty cartoonish, I was with ‘em on this one.
- Didn’t have much time to talk about Chloe working at the cell phone store, but I loved everything involved with that: The horror at seeing Krysten Ritter in a sad logo polo shirt, everyone’s shock and horror at the tornado ripping through the banana factory, Mark’s bemused “You’re describing really ordinary things in a really dramatic way” response.
- I’ve gotta start answering my cell phone with “Hello, is [the person calling] there?” And also shock-snapping people.
- Norbit? VETO.
- Also: Goddamn, that silver dress!
- Man, Eli needs to flyer better; like, 80% of Brooklyn would have turned up for a butter climbing wall if only they’d have known!
- Didn’t find JVDB in the fat suit inherently funny, but I did like his sad little “I had frosting earlier.”
- I guess JVDB didn’t get the part in the Woody Allen movie, boo!
- I know I look good when I give a shorter guy directions.
- “That squirrel is staring into my soul!”
- Last one next week!