Even if I didn’t find myself torn between liking this particular show and loudly hating the sitcom trend toward sap, and even if I didn’t find myself thinking of Tara Ariano’s curious reaction to the New Girl surprise birthday party, and even if wedding episodes didn’t have a lot to live up to over the years, “The Wedding,” both parts, would still go down as a speed bump for this freshman sitcom. Both parts have moments of overpowering tenderness, like Kate confessing that she does want a real wedding. “Part Two” has a terrific overhead sequence showing all the sleeping arrangements—Bert and Warren in one bed, Pete and his father and his father’s incessant sleep apnea machine in another, and so on—followed by another great scene between Pete and Kate in the garage the next morning showing exactly how good they are for each other. Still, “Part Two” is heavier on smiles than laughs, and I’m way more Bert than Diane in that department.
“Part Two” is more streamlined than “Part One,” with the supporting characters just showing up to make jokes rather than actually intrude on the plot. It’s mostly about Kate and Pete dealing with their parents’ issues. As Pete says in the aforementioned morning scene, “It’s a wedding tradition: You invite your parents, and then immediately you regret it.” Kate’s mom, Cricket (Megan Mullally), is a wild child, inviting strippers to the rehearsal dinner because she’s adamant that Kate have a bachelorette party. She also invited some to the wedding, because she really just wants attention. It turns out Cricket sees Kate’s new life as a rejection of her old one, when in reality Kate’s new life is exactly as hectic as her upbringing. What an interesting point packed in there. People look at Kate and see the show’s title. They see a trophy wife with a rich, lawyer husband and a fancy house and a lot of shrimp. The question is, how far off are they? Kate isn’t especially superficial, but she does have an awfully cushy life, three rambunctious families or no. The episode digs toward that idea and abruptly segues into the Harrisons’ collective Mullally-esque energy, but it definitely hits something hard in that dirt. I both want to give Kate the cold shoulder for her problems and offer it to her to cry on for being judged by everyone.
Pete’s parents, Francis and Frances (Bob Gunton and Florence Henderson) have totally different issues. They’re so buttoned-up that they barely resemble a marriage. Francis is secretly working again, and Frances has sold their house and bought a condo in Florida without telling her husband. At one point Francis comes out and tells the family that Great Aunt Marge is dead and that the funeral is on Kate’s re-wedding day. Once the Harrisons have absorbed this heavy news, a total letdown in the sitcom-wedding department, Frances comes out and tells them the exact same info. Pete says, “You guys really don’t talk about anything, do you?” The best thing here is that they really never do resolve their issues. Kate forces them together, but they run away. So she tells them each other’s secrets, and they still refuse to address either issue, preferring to see about their usual tasks. “The dishwasher won’t clean itself!” says Frances. “Yes, it will,” says Kate.
Part of what I loved about that early-morning garage chat between Kate and Pete is that it confirms that they’re not in much danger of becoming their parents. Kate has too much responsibility now to go full free-spirit, and Pete is the only other sane one in the family, so they’re bound to remain each other’s confidantes. Best of all, they’re just so transparent with each other. The romance feels subdued, but they absolutely connect like parents.
So after all the strippers and secrets and lies, the Harrisons head out to Great Aunt Marge’s funeral. I’m about average on the uptake in cases like this, but those exotic hats on the plane make for such a lame Portlandia joke that they were obviously Diane and Jackie. The next thing that’s obvious is that something—I assumed sitcom fate—was forcing Kate to endure a terrible plane ride. But I still assumed there was something special planned for Portland. But then Hillary delivers Kate a replacement outfit (“I always pack extra clothes. Warren was a plane puker. Still is”), and everything became clear. I don’t get it—where’s the sky marshal?—but it’s still beautiful to see Kate walk down the aisle to The Muppets Take Manhattan with her entire family celebrating at 20,000 feet.
And sweet. It’s very sweet. That’s how sitcoms are nowadays. If you’re looking for a punctual, pleasant time with a few solid smiles and nice people, have I got some shows for you.
- “The Wedding – Part Two” is the first script since the second episode credited to series creators, Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins.
- Cricket calls Pete a kiss-ass for smooth-talking airport security. Pete says, “Keeping people out of jail is one of my most annoying qualities.”
- Cricket brought gifts for the kids! “A butterfly knife for Bert, some Canadian Playboys for the gentle one, and for Hillary...” she trails off, gesturing to a red lacy number.
- Great work from the supporting cast this week, but Hillary really shines under the spotlight. She tells Meg, “My list has 18 items and yours fits on your hand.” “Oh, yeah. Thanks for reminding me.”
- Meg shows Francis her new upper breast tattoo. “It’s infected, but you get the gist.”
- Warren trying to shave gave me my most visceral wince since Dr. Steve Brule ate a booger.
- Kate: “One night I got up to pee and I found Jackie in our bathtub.”