Family sitcoms are a dime a dozen, but “There’s No Guy In Team” shows why Trophy Wife is one of the best. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel. No stunts or guest stars. It’s just a great cast split among three little stories about parenting. It’s funnier than I can keep up with. And it nails the closing montage. Modern Family loves a good heartfelt speech, its character of the week slicing into a vein and spraying that sap all over the screen, usually wrapping up with a joke to keep us safe from all that naked truth, which isn’t even truth considering all the selfish nonsense in the preceding episode. “There’s No Guy In Team” wraps up with “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” It’s a joke, a girl-power anthem playing as Warren embraces his position on the girls, well, now co-ed field hockey team. But then it keeps playing through shots of Hillary bonding with Jackie and Pete giving Bert a Kelly Clarkson CD, pivoting into the triumph. It’s sweet without being maudlin, and that emotion isn’t a cheat. The stories build to it. And mostly it’s still funny. There are still shots of Warren’s coach benching him and a sense of “what now” as Jackie’s place is covered in paint. This is a sitcom, after all.
The stories divide each of the kids up with one parent each. Kate starts to worry about Warren’s friendlessness when he invites a friend for a sleepover and it turns out to be Diane. (“I thought Warren was having a friend sleep over.” “And here she is!” he says, gesturing to his mother.) Pete discovers that Bert has been using a credit card he got in the mail, so he tries to straighten him up. And Hillary gets a C on an art project (“My life is over. Goodbye, Princeton. Hello, Brown”) so Diane takes her to Jackie for some tips. Diane’s just there for a few jokes, and Meg flits in and out of the Harrison household because there’s a DUI checkpoint down the street and there’s a slight chance she bought a stolen car. The point is even though the stories are about one parent and one kid, nobody gets shafted.
The stories themselves dig deeper than expected, certainly deeper than the average Modern Family plot. Jackie has a box of all of Hillary’s old art projects, and she hauls it out to prove to Hillary that she is a creative person. Scenes like that are what make Trophy Wife stand out. There was a time when Jackie was Hillary’s step-mom, when Jackie was the one who had to help her with her homework and get her ready for school, and “There’s No Guy In Team” reaches back to that. Their relationship gets lost in the usual sitcom shuffle where Diane presents Jackie as a worst case scenario for her kids, but Hillary rediscovering her connection to Jackie is one of the show’s high points. TV doesn’t have relationships like this.
The Warren plot takes it soft on the kid—outside of three different references to proper penis awareness—because it’s not really about him. True, Warren could stand to have some friends who aren’t his mom, but for the most part, he’s got it together. He’s happy-go-lucky and supernaturally confident, and he can talk to anyone. Kate’s the one who’s stuck in high school. The moment in the car where she confesses that she just doesn’t want anyone else to think Warren’s a loser is probably overkill, but how else is Kate going to realize her mistake? It also takes an external factor—the fate of high school loser turned millionaire venture capitalist Artie Plopper—for Kate to realize that Warren’ll be okay. It’s too bad a box of art projects or something can’t do the trick, but at least Trophy Wife gets back to that running theme of Kate needing to grow up, too. She’s been too responsible lately.
Bert, meanwhile, is parading from scam to scam on a float of money. Except for the credit card, he’s just showing his entrepreneurial spirit, for example splitting his allowance with some friends if they’ll do his chores for him. He opens up a soda black market for kids whose parents don’t allow it, but Pete makes him return the money.
“Do you know what you did wrong?”
“What did you do wrong?”
“I don’t know.”
When Bert comes back, he has an even fatter wad from charging a reasonable rate for scooter rides. It’s delightful to see Bert this badly behaved. Not that he’s the perfect angel Diane’s children are, but he’s never this greedy. Even though the episode is just a normal family sitcom episode, it keeps exposing these latent behaviors and attitudes of its characters, making it not just a normal family sitcom episode after all.
- Childrens Hospital Reunion: Ken Marino directs and plays Warren’s coach, Jack Dawson. Like from Titanic, Kate asks? “2,000 people died in that horrific tragedy. How can I help you?”
- Among the pizzas Kate ordered are vegetarian meat-lover’s. Pete just wants plain cheese pizza. “Don’t you watch the news? Kids who eat plain cheese pizza die.”
- And in traits that we could see all along, Hillary has some friends sleep over so they could amend the student government constitution. She practically squeals with delight.
- Meg with a hot parenting tip to make Warren some friends. “Put some beers in his lunch. That’ll get him to the cool table, and if not, he’ll have beers in his lunch.”
- I’d start doing a Harrison Of The Week if it didn’t feel like too little, too late. (Next year, fingers crossed!) But it’s definitely Warren this week. From quasi-flirting with Meg to staring out the window in thought, Ryan Lee can’t help but be funny. Great lines, too. He wonders what he and Kate are doing tonight: “Listening to dogs bark and guessing what they’re thinking?”
- Diane on Jackie’s place: “It looks as if it was decorated by a parrot.” “Yes! Actually I was going for Toucan Sam meets Arabian Nights meets under $200!”
- Jackie’s art-making soundtrack: “This next one is just a recording of a lot of people screaming.” It’s funny on its own, but it reaches a whole other level when the people start screaming.
- Warren’s new friends, the 15 girls on the field hockey team, finally meet Kate. “She is not as hot as you said she was.”
- Jackie, on the phone, suddenly breaks into an accent. “Miss Jackie no here! Oh, no, I don’t know where she go. She die. Goodbye!” And then to Hillary: “Sorry, that was my mom.”