Last week I compared Michael & Michael to Flight Of The Conchords, because of the way it blends scenes from a heightened reality for its stars (who essentially play themselves) with scenes meant to break up the pace and provide some distraction—those of you familiar with long-form improvisation might recognize this as a variation on a Harold. But after tonight's episode, I'm starting to feel an Office comparison is probably more apropos. Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, like Michael Scott, have found themselves in position of power and see themselves as as such. But they remain oblivious to social cues, and the inhabitants of the sane world around them struggle between ridiculing them and falling in line. After all, they're the bosses.
This is a role both Michaels are comfortable playing—whereas Michael Scott is someone we saw from the beginning, the characters of both Michaels, as I pointed out in week one, have been honed for years through other projects. And the actors' ease with the roles allows them to develop tension, then exploit said tension, almost effortlessly.
While "Matchmaker" ended strong, it shared a problem with the first episode of the season, in that the conclusion felt like a long time coming. Both Michaels pick up early on that their associate producer, Marla, has the hots for new guy Nick (Leo Allen). But Marla is extremely bumbling around boys she likes—laughing at inappropriate times; talking nonstop—so the Michaels take it upon themselves to set the two up (and turn Marla into what she was always meant to become: Liz Lemon). They throw a dinner party for the cast, insisting the peons abide by a made-up seating chart, thus placing Marla and Nick next to each other; then it's time to partake in the ol' Italian standby custom, "Kiss the person next to you on the lips." (Poor Kumail…)
Despite the whole thing being so forced it hurts (just like Marla's "game"), the plan works, and Marla brings Nick home. And now they're dating. Fast forward three weeks, and Nick has broken up with Marla. ("Their love is a lie!") The Michaels are furious, so they storm into the editing room—and upon a computer editing a scene with Showalter talking to a bunch of computers—to chew Nick out. But they learn that Nick had a pretty good reason for ending things: She wanted him to pee on her. Now the Michaels understand—oh, those sick but not too sick boys.
Because the Michaels are self-righteous and totally clueless as to anything tact related, they feel it's their God-given duty to spell out the situation for their employees, to ensure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. The ensuing chat—Showalter brings up something vague, then Black interjects the specifics of who was involved and what bodily function was asked to be expelled, and onto whom—is the high point of the episode; the boys hardly fought at all tonight, and instead we witness their superb comic timing and sense of how best to riff off one another. But Michael & Michael has quickly become a show about payoffs, the earlier parts of the episode too diluted to make the few jokes hit all that hard. If The Office is the right model, there's plenty more fun to be had with the set-ups.
- Tonight's stray gags were a store that sells just sweatpants and a video about how to avoid unwanted teen pregnancy. Yes, there were only two, and they were short. I think the show needs to decide how strong a presence they want these asides to have, and really commit to it: Plenty of short asides; or fewer, highly produced affairs. Right now it feels kind of in between.
- "Sex pudding."