Yeesh, “The Gang Dines Out” might as well been titled “The Gang Partially Digests An Episode Of Friends.” It seemed like this might have been some sort of attempt at putting a spin on sitcom tropes like “Ha ha, two male friends (and they are definitely not gay!) are acting like they’re married!” or “Ha ha, a woman is embarrassed to be seen dining alone and desperately tries to get people to appear to be her date!” or “Ha ha, a misunderstanding just keeps getting wackier and wackier because the wounded parties refuse to speak to each other!”
But if it was, it forgot to actually put a spin on them, and just ended up running through the paces of a really, really standard network sitcom. It didn’t feel like the show I’m used to at all. It was strange and boring, with barely any real laughs. (Those exceptions were almost entirely throwaway lines, too—Frank threatening to use his lobster as a weapon, Dee’s mention of her soldier ex’s love of jean shorts.)
So the Gang, divided into three separate parties—Mac and Dennis on their monthly dinner date, Charlie and Frank on their anniversary (-ish), and Dee solo because she has an expiring Groupon—coincidentally all end up at the fanciest restaurant in Philadelphia, which apparently both serves spaghetti and meatballs and takes Groupons, because that’s what fancy restaurants do. The comedy of manners that follows just reinforces that Sunny’s strengths lie in filling out the “Comedy of __________” Mad Libs with “extremes,” “outrage,” “cruelty,” “fake-blood projectile vomit,” “ostriches”—anything but “manners.”
I just don’t have a lot to say about this episode except that it commits the cardinal sin of being boring pretty much the whole way through. Whether past episodes have succeeded or not, I’ve always gotten the feeling that they were at least trying. This one just felt like everyone involved with the script (writing credit is to Mehar Sethi of The Cleveland Show, who also did “How Mac Got Fat”) was hung over, so he cobbled together a few ’90s-sitcom plots, and called it a day. It’s especially striking how blah this episode is when you think about last week’s insane Dennis-in-the-sensory-deprivation-pod stuff.
But speaking of (and they are definitely not gay!), the hints about Mac being the only one still thinking he’s straight have gotten to the point where “hint” is no longer an appropriate word. I found Frank and Dennis’ attempts to grease the poor hostess’ palm/cleavage pretty lame as freestanding jokes, but they were immediately redeemed by Mac then putting his own tip directly into the waiter’s pants pocket. These last few episodes where Gang members have been pointedly rolling their eyes at Mac’s closetedness kind of had me fantasizing about a “Mac Comes Out” (or “Mac Goes To Reparative Therapy”—too much?) title card on the premiere of season nine—even more than Fat Mac, Gay Mac strikes me as a huge new potential well of material late in the game.
- Seasons one through seven are now on Netflix Instant Watch.
- The Mac/Charlie prolonged stare was weirdly enthralling, and I found their twin impulses to stand and bow pretty sweet.
- Mac assuming that Dennis didn’t want to even out his wobbly chair with a book of matches because they might catch the chair on fire was a neat look at the way his thought process works.
- “They hate America! They hate the troops! They hate the people who work the hardest for them! They turn them into janitors!”
- Sambuca all around!