When you write about a comedy week in and week out (except when you have to spend a week in Denmark every so often), it's kind of like having children. You tend to overanalyze all the good moments and not-so-good moments. You chase each individual data point, wondering if it's a trend. Will it be like this forever?
Last week Noel was concerned that the slapdash nature of "Paddy's Bar" presaged bad tidings for the season. Did it mean that the large FX episode order had put the creators in an unproductive position, with the pressure of being cancelled suddenly off, but with the new pressure of having to come up with dozens more comedy ideas for the next two years alarmingly present? I watched the episode yesterday after having read Noel's write-up. In that context, it seemed a bit better than he judged it. In particular, the aimless bits that surrounded the main plotlines were so charming that they made the episode seem like a spontaneous lark rather than a comedic forced march -- I'm thinking particularly of the a cappella singing, which was quite magical.
Tonight? Well, I'm still a little concerned. There were good ideas here, but as has happened a couple of other times this season already, the manic pace didn't feel entirely organic. It's almost like the pressure is to have six truly first-rate comic concepts per episode, and even though nearly all of them worked in "Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life" to some degree, the pressure sucked a bit of the life out of them. Or maybe it'll all look better on the TiVo next Wednesday. But that's the nature of the TV Club -- you've got to keep running as fast as you can just to stay in the same place.
In particular, I would have liked more emphasis on Dennis's memoir of sexual adventure, which contains at least one totally true incident (nailing that chick in the fountain with the hot dogs and oatmeal). The bits that we hear are classic Dennis: "She was much, much older than me ... but her breasts were awesome" and "Dude, your balls totally rule." But the plot isn't the memoir itself, but Mac and Frank's plan to insulate Dennis from the fate of the "Million Little Pieces guy" by staging the made-up events and taking photos so that no one can prove they didn't happen. In particular, they put Dennis in rehab and give him stigmata, and they work on getting proximity to Jon Bon Jovi in order to lend credence to Dennis's claim to be the rock star's personal sexual advisor. Part the First of this plan leads to Dennis apparently hallucinating attacks by Sinbad and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, while Part the Second has Frank trying to buy the Philadelphia arena football team while Mac dons a bald cap and pretends to have "very terminal cancer."
Meanwhile, Dee agrees to walk a mile in Charlie's paint-can-peeing, cat-food-eating, glue-huffing, rat-trap-cheese-stealing shoes. (Best moment: Frank rushing in after the cats start howling, hurriedly shoveling down some cat food, and curling up in bed.) Then they switch places and Charlie gets to experience Dee's nauseated amateur stand-up comedy career. (MC: "Well, at least it was short and dry this time.")
There was one a capella moment that gives me a lot of hope we'll be seeing more time-wasting randomness worming its way into the show. After the arena football fiasco, Frank and Mac go to a movie theater, play with a laser pointer, and have an aimless cell phone conversation heedless of the comfort of the other patrons. ("No, you got the wrong number, dude. This is Mac." "Who you talking to?" "Bill. No wait, this is Terry. Sorry, Terry. We're watching a movie.") It's a pitch-perfect rendition of the numbingly frustrating experience of listening involuntarily to cluelessly rude people who find it inconceivable that others might find their phone conversations annoying.
When Sunny's at its best, there's an intoxicating mix of breakneck plot and tossed-off asides. But I'm starting to like how the tossed-off asides are invading the plot and carving out their own little spaces to roam. And I'm fine with the plot taking a back seat, if it relieves everybody's stress level a little.
- Kids, Don't Try This At Home Department: Something about the cat food, the glue, and the beer together combines to make you feel really tired and sick so you go right to sleep.
- Rob Thomas "unleashes the fury" by grabbing Dennis's shoe and threatening to beat him in the testicles. (According to Mac, in an apparent meta-reference to the cameo appearance itself, "Rob Thomas is a douchebag, but the public eats that shit up.")
- Mac didn't think the beard would fall out during chemo because he "asked the bald cap guy."
- Nope, "Mr. Bo Vine Joni himself" is not a guest star on the show. He's from New Jersey.