I wish FX would decide whether they're going to show the awesome episode first or second in their crazy two-at-a-time scheme. I'd like a little bit of notice, some time to prepare, you know what I mean?
This week the twofer was front-loaded with a classic that utilizes every character and creates an effortless rhythm of invention. Then there was "Mac's Banging The Waitress," a claustrophobic number with no B-story and no Sweet Dee. Presumably Kaitlin Olson was laid up with a back injury when it was filmed. Where DeVito was, I would hesitate to speculate. But the episode felt tossed off and thin.
But let's not dwell on the negative. Because we can dwell instead of "America's Next Top Paddy's Billboard Model," a send-up of reality shows and YouTube stardom that features everything I love about IASIP comedy. Volleyballs to the face. Insensitive ethnic stereotyping. Dennis whipping off an article of clothing. The Clothes-Off Pose-Off (see previous item). And of course, random Green Man.
See, Paddy's Bar is hemorrhaging money because of the gang's abuse of the company credit card. (Dennis: laser pubes removal; Mac: samurai sword; Dee: camcorder.) So Frank buys a billboard to attract business, but rescuing the bar quickly sinks in priority behind the search for the right sexpot and beefcake to feature on said billboard. While Frank puts the male models through their paces (including Dennis, who wants to prove that, contra Mac, 2008 Dennis is not in decline), Mac retools the female model search into his own personal version of The Bachelor, complete with shamrocks for the winning potential soulmate (or at least bangtoy).
Meanwhile Dee wants to put her hilarious comic characters (Irish! Puerto Rican! Asian!) on YouTube to get discovered, and Charlie combines her personal search for fame with viral marketing for Paddy's by throwing volleyballs at her. His point -- that this is what YouTube is all about -- is valid. His other point -- that being hit by volleyballs is hilarious -- is irrefutable. (For evidence, see this episode). Charlie's other idea is to insert random appearances by Green Man kicking people in the nuts and occasionally throwing volleyballs. But when he finds out that Dee has been using the camcorder to do a video diary about how unhappy she is, he puts the footage on YouTube as PatheticGirl43 ("It seems I have a rash ... in a place where a sexually active person would have a rash") and gets 80,000 hits. Dee's anger quickly fades when she realizes that she's big on the Internet; as Charlie points out, Chocolate Rain gets free everything when he goes around in the world.
"America's Next" has it all -- location shooting, randomness, a sprinkling of improv (Dee explaining her Irish character: "The beer's too low for what average beer prices are"), and plenty of well-planned setpieces like Frank's slideshow of the male models' best shots (to Dennis's mule impression, he growls: "I'm no longer turned on by mules"). More importantly, it's the right number of ideas for the episode. That seems to be the key to Sunny's precarious sense of pacing -- too many ideas (or perhaps not enough confidence in all of them) and the episode is manic and shrill; too few, and there's not enough impetus for comedy.
And that brings us back to "Mac's Banging The Waitress." I have some empathy for the episode based on the evocation of a pre-teen fight over best friend status, which is spot-on. But there's almost nothing else going on. I wish that instead of following Charlie, Mac, and Dennis around as Mac pretends to avenge Charlie's honor and Dennis sows doubt in Charlie's mind about Mac's intentions, the episode had rolled with Project Badass, Mac's poorly-motivated series of videos of him doing rickety stunts with fireworks duct-taped to his jacket and pants.
Grades: "America's Next," A; "Mac's Banging," C-
- Dee gets the drop on the guys telling her she's too unattractive to be on the billboard, but Dennis still gets the last word: "Anything's better than you!"
- "Anything can happen on a runway." "Nobody's going to throw detergent in my face on a runway!"
- Charlie deflecting Dennis's advances goes on way too long, but I do like the way it ended, with Charlie complaining that there's too much counting in Connect Four because you have to count to four too many times, and Dennis mumbling, "Not that many times ... if you get it once, you've won the game."
- Charlie's impression of being extremely drunk is basically the same as Paul Giamatti's actual voice when extremely drunk. Or so I imagine.