Man, what a delightful show this is. I know I was talking last week about how it’s important for Happy Endings to try and mess with its formula a little because good things like that won’t last forever, but I don’t really know if I mean it. Or, I do mean it, but goddamn the formula just works so good for them. I nearly burned my fingers off trying to get all the good lines from this week’s episode down (the first script of the season from Prentice Penny, one of the show’s pros) but even if I had, it wouldn’t be enough. The ensemble is gelled enough that the weird little noises and affirmations they make after each other’s gags can provoke laughs.
“Meat the Parrots” definitely had a plot, actually, when you think about it in the context of last week’s episode, it had a relatively meaningful plot. After the hint of flirtation between Dave and Penny last week, this week we get the bombshell that Dave’s newly-divorced dad Big Dave (Michael McKean) is dating Penny’s mom Dana (the always-welcome Megan Mullally). Penny proclaims herself big sister and starts giving Dave wet willies almost immediately (“You’re going to agitate my swimmer’s ear!” he whines).
So the crux of the episode was Dave being immature about the whole development and basically not wanting to get over his parents’ divorce yet, which was fine. We had a lovely digression into his old family home (where he tries to piggyback on a little girl’s Skype session) and some hoary old material about crystals and Ed Begley Jr. that worked mostly on the back of Mr. Begley’s cameo (that man is always happy to lampoon himself, and good on him for it).
Michael McKean is a solid addition to the Happy Endings stable of recurring characters, which is particularly well-stocked when it comes to the parent division (and we still have Brad’s mom, Dave’s mom, Penny’s dad and Alex and Jane’s parents to meet). Since most of his material was plotty, he didn’t get a lot of wacky stuff to do, but his opening moment with the fake-heartfelt reunion with his son was golden. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mullally’s first episode on the show but that wasn’t to do with her – she’s always a strong hand on deck and her chemistry with Casey Wilson, especially when they’re singing together, is undeniable.
But I think I had the most fun this week with our side-plots, especially Alex’s caper in the Chinese restaurant with Brad and Max. Max’s constant references to The Wire (which it turns out he hasn’t seen) were fun, but I’m most impressed by Alex’s development this year on the comedy front. She’s turned from consistently being the dullest character on the show to one of the zaniest. Her constant devouring of food and occasionally sub-normal intellect can be cartoonish at times (plus this week she randomly threatened to get naked to keep everyone at her house), but I think that works best in terms of getting good stuff from Elisha Cuthbert so I’m happy to sacrifice her normalcy.
I think that in the original conception of the show, Dave and Alex were going to be straight man/lady types and everyone else would bounce around kookily. Dave still has a hint of straight man to him, but at this point, pretty much everyone’s bouncing around kookily every episode and it works fine.
On top of the Chinese restaurant caper (they think there’s a sex ring but it turns out to be an ESL class…it’s not important) the episode piled on a bunch of other silly details, the best being Alex’s racist parrot, which she thought she was buying from an internet stoner with the name ARyan 420, but actually he was Aryan 4/20 aka Hitler’s birthday. And Brad’s, apparently. There was also a running theme about Alex having spilled a drink when she was nine (spoiler alert: turns out it was Jane’s fault) that led to her being served wine in a sippy cup in one scene, which was a great image.
Oh, boy. Really, a very slight episode, but when things are this punchy and fun, you’ll have no complaints from me.
Playing some guessing game, Alex gets “The honorable Elijah Muhammad” just from Jane clearing her throat. Why was he even an answer? “Ali was on last night,” Brad notes.
Penny misses Dave’s old house. “I went to third base with Peter Wong in that rec room. I still smile every time I see wood paneling. Or Peter Wong.”
Dave says news of his dad’s new girlfriend is a big pill to swallow. “Like the kind they give to horses that have strep.”
Max can’t help talking about The Wire. “Saying just like on Blue Bloods doesn’t have the same pop.”
Brad shows some serious chopstick skills on Alex’s face this week.
Penny’s hair in heat looks like John C. Reilly after a kickball game.