Running Wilde did something last night they should have done a long time ago. Which brings me to…
Running Wilde Lesson #2: Offer a peek behind the curtain earlier, not later.
"It's A Trade-Off" largely did away with Migo and Mr. Lunt (and, of course, Andy) in order to show the worlds that Steve and Emmy live in when they're not struggling to be flirty with one another. Convinced the other one has it easier, Steve and Emmy switch places for a few days. Steve goes off to help Puddle with her school work, which includes a Cuba-themed booth and some ugly looking empanadas. Emmy hits up the A-list party scene (the Ah-list) in an attempt to keep up the Wilde name in high society. It turns out that both Steve and Emmy have a lot to do, and the opportunity to walk in each other's shoes has given the pair a new-found respect for what the other does. It's not just partying and keeping someone from eating cake.
I liken this to those scenes in The Office and Parks & Rec where they show Michael and Leslie kicking ass at their jobs. It's important that characters are good at what they do. "Bumbling" is a one-note joke, and it makes for much richer comedy to demonstrate that even though Steve doesn't do much in the traditional sense, he's great at networking, schmoozing, and acting as a de facto brand ambassador. Then we get past all that and mine different, original, character-based things for humor.
The show should have done this much sooner. I feel like I learned more about Steve and Emmy watching them last night than I did the entire run of the show thus far. Steve can make reference to being sheltered all he wants, the real pay-off came when, rather than Google Puddle's school, he hires a private investigator to track down its whereabouts. (Also, Google Puddle needs to be a thing soon.) Then the joke returns later—Steve needs info on Cuba and knows just the guy—to great effect. Same with Emmy and the cone joke. The episode started by showing Steve passed out amidst the traffic cones, and watching Emmy's descent into madness made her own traffic cone pay-off all the more satisfying. A few weeks ago, we would have just seen the traffic cones and left it at that.
The episode also offered a chance to see what Puddle is all about, and it turns out …not much. She's the ultimate observer, which I suppose makes her the ideal candidate to be the narrator, but not the ideal one to engage in the events of the show. She goes with the flow when Steve offers her cake and coddles her, then when things go wrong, nothing changes. She offers no insight into the situation, nor does she demonstrate any point-of-view that could be spun into some humor later on. It bothers me more than the disappointingly straightforward Migo, because Puddle is ostensibly one of the main characters. Migo can get away with one squirrel joke and then disappearing from the episode. Puddle can't, but her presence isn't adding anything to the show other than a reason for Emmy to be motherly.
As for the humor of "It's A Trade-Off," once again the best jokes were the ones that came out of nowhere, even if they went nowhere. I need to start a weekly Fa'ad section of this column because there's always something to say: This week it was his decision to wear an eye patch, make the lamest joke in history, then hammer the joke until it was totally dead, that had me in stitches. There was also a fleeting moment where they joked about Ana Gasteyer being a witch and one where Steve did a Cockney accent instead of a Russian one. The episode was by far one of the most cohesive episodes the show has done, and sprinkling these kinds of jokes only made it better.
There were some painful parts, sure, like anything with Mr. Lunt. But at this point I'm taking what I can get.
- Another nice joke: The PI naming the first of two schools, then getting cut off.
- "Why, did you find his head?"
- "I do things for page six so people forget what Wilde Oil did on page one."