Happy Endings: “Kickball 2: The Kickening”
B+

Happy Endings: “Kickball 2: The Kickening”

B+

Happy Endings

“Kickball 2: The Kickening”

Season 3, Episode 10

So, this is an odd duck. This episode, as you might be able to figure out, is airing way out of sequence. Like, waaaay out of sequence. It was supposed to air last spring as part of season two, and got held over for whatever reason and slotted in here so Happy Endings could keep up with its twice-a-week schedule while shooting season three normally. On the one hand, it’s nice that this fun half hour saw the light of day, but it did have an inevitably jarring edge to it. The show had this problem before, with the wacko scheduling of season one that pushed a bunch of early episodes to the end of the year and vaguely tried to make them work as flashbacks.

In all, the differences were not that noticeable. Alex is in her old apartment, obviously, but we barely see any of it. Penny is very much a single lady on the prowl going for the whole “Year of Penny” thing, and now, in the middle of season three, she has a boyfriend, so there’s that. I noticed even more subtle stuff with Alex’s character—she’s vaguely level-headed here and the leader of the group, giving motivational speeches and so forth. It’s not completely out of the ordinary, but I do think it’d be handled a little differently now, since her character has gotten more broad and surreal (in a good way).

But, whatever. This is a perfectly funny episode that had a bunch of nice surprises—Matt Walsh as the weary kickball announcer who has never seen anything so shocking in his 36 hours on the job. Or the return of Seth Morris (who hasn’t appeared once in season three thanks to his Go On commitments) as the psychotic Scotty, absolutely the best recurring character this show ever cooked up. His weak spine and knees (“I need steroids!”) reminded me a little of Morris’ most famous character, Bob Ducca, and that tickled me plenty (if you don’t know the character, type it into YouTube. You won’t be disappointed).

The whole thing was a very loose spoof of baseball movies, particularly A League Of Their Own (Max happily takes to Tom Hanks’ surly drunk coach role) and The Natural (Dave’s climactic losing kick, to Penny’s face for the second time, was set to Randy Newman’s score or some pastiche thereof). Anything that spoofs A League Of Their Own is going to go over pretty well with me, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Adam Pally would be perfect for a Tom Hanks biopic if Hanks had had a few lost years when he was in his 20s.

What was especially odd about this episode, that has nothing to do with its airing out of sequence, was how it was singularly focused on one plot. There were little character pieces to the plot—Jane betrays the group and plays for another team, Dave has the yips and can’t kick the ball, Brad insists on bunting every time and wants to be called “bunt cake.” But there were not dovetailing storylines, no moments for the characters to split off and have weird side-adventures.

That’s out of character for this show, but I’ll admit that it worked. This wasn’t a complicated episode, nor was it the most memorable, but it had a lot of good lines and nice resolutions for everyone (Dave makes his kick, Jane re-joins the gang, Brad realizes kicking is more fun than bunting). The final, pathetic loser’s celebration, made with Penny still on the field clutching her wounded face, was undeniably funny and cute.

See, ABC? You can do what you can to this show—air it twice a week, air it out of sequence, slot in episodes from last year—but you can’t destroy it. It’s still incredibly consistent and funny! Even if its plots aren’t as original, the cast always brings ‘em home. So, whatever you’ve got coming, I’m ready. Cause I don’t smell a drop-off in quality anytime soon.

Stray observations:

So Alex’s shop, named “Shayla,” is spelled Xela. Lots of fun jokes about that in this episode.

Everyone offers an excuse for not wanting to play kickball, but Brad’s is the best. “I know it sounds stupid, but I started going to church.”

Dave has the yips like Chuck Knoblauch. “Or like when Wang Chung tried to have fun the following night.”

Scotty has a lot of problems. “I was getting juiced up. Mango and orange. Also doing steroids. For my thyroid condition. And for strength! Because of my weak spine. Too many steroids.”

He also has a problem with the Soviets. “They rendered every single one of my globes useless.”