Happy Friday! It’s the end of Batman Week and the release of The LEGO Batman Movie, so we assume you’re leaving work early. So we’ll hit you with a half-day version of The Best TV Shows on TV, our weekly feature where we talk about our favorite shows and etcetera. You know the rest.
We’ve already talked about… actually we’ve mostly just talked about Batman all week. So let’s get to some TV!
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – We have to admit, this second season was tough to really get behind. While the individual episodes were perfectly enjoyable, there was this weird tendency to touch on something serious and then immediately back off from it. The show started to get into the idea that Rebecca might have serious mental issues, but never did anything with it. It just came up often enough to make things less funny and more sad. And they’d occasionally acknowledge that, for example, Rebecca is a terrible friend to Paula but she seemed incapable of changing that, making her less sympathetic over time. Episode to episode, it was great. But when you take in a full season, it just turned into a bummer and seemed like maybe they were taking on something too big for them to handle.
It didn’t help that Josh Chan has never really clicked as a character, despite a charming performance. Sure, the idea is that Rebecca is in love with the idea of him more so than the actual guy. That worked last season, but making him more of a presence in her life without giving him more depth (and, in fact, making him more cartoonish) was just awkward. Well, that all turned around in the finale.
As Rebecca and Josh’s quickie wedding approaches, Josh struggled with doubts and Rebecca tried to make a perfect wedding on her own while also dealing with her massive fear of abandonment in the form of her father. Papa Bunch only grudgingly showed up and watching her desperately try to win him over was so, so hard to watch. That was a whole other subplot. The point is, at the last minute, Josh decided to join the priesthood. And then Rebecca’s panic revealed a huge part of her past that had only been hinted at.
You know how she graduated from Yale but every once in a while they mention she attended Harvard? Or how the name “Robert” comes up occasionally? Well, we learned that when she was at Harvard, she was in a serious relationship with a man named Robert, and when he broke up with her she set fire to all his things. She faced multiple arson charges in a quick court scene that quoted the new opening theme, which made the mildly amusing song into something disturbing. A restraining order forced her to leave Harvard, and we even saw a moment of an institutionalized Rebecca, always singing to herself. It shed a new light on the whole series to date and made her season-ending vow to ruin Josh’s life genuinely upsetting.
There was a plan all along, and nobody saw it. It feels weird to describe a musical comedy as “chilling”, but that’s what this was. We never should have doubted.
Michael Bolton’s Big Sexy Valentine’s Day Special – This Netflix special is a bizarre treasure. Basically a team-up of the Lonely Island and Comedy Bang! Bang!, Big Sexy was written by Scott Aukerman and much of the CBB writing team (including several Birthday Boys) and co-directed by Aukerman and Akiva Schaffer. And it’s about Michael Bolton putting on the sexiest special ever at the behest of Santa Claus.
See, the elves made too many toys so Santa needs 75,000 new children before December 25th to take care of the overstock. That means they’ll have to be conceived in February, and it’s Michael’s job to get people in the baby-making mood. Hence the special and its telethon-style phone back of celebrities taking conception pledges. (Brooke Shields! Louie Anderson! Bob Saget! Sinbad!) It’s bonkers. There are musical numbers, like Maya Rudolph’s “Key Change” and Sarah Silverman and Randall Park with a filthy duet. There are plenty of sketches, with varying degrees of Bolton. Fred Armisen as a chocolatier who takes his work too seriously, Chris Parnell as a virtual reality scientist with a realistic sex simulation, Adam Scott as “your best friend, Adam Scott”. Andy Samberg shows up to play Kenny G for a scene where a duel turns into a duet. There’s a wonderfully insane bit about Bolton impressing punks with an elaborate “Old Time Rock and Roll” performance which flashes back to Bolton rehearsing the number for just such an occasion. Michael Sheen’s insane choreographer is a delight! And then there’s spunkyfave Will Forte as Bolton’s brother, Michael Fulton. (Yes, they have different last names and the same first name.) There’s some jealousy there because Bolton got the talent and the looks and the standard number of testicles.
It’s wonderfully nuts. Most of the scenes feel like the middle of a Comedy Bang! Bang! episode, which is exactly what we’re looking for. We don’t want to spoil anything, but it builds to a crazy climax that involves a sniper rifle, magic, and a certain Tim Allen movie. It is an absolute pleasure to watch, and we’re not sure how Netflix ended up with something this weird, but here’s hoping it’s the start of a long relationship with Aukerman and friends. Watch it with someone you love! Or by yourself! That’s totally cool, too.
Baskets – This week’s episode focused on the supporting cast for the first time this season as Chip made his one call from jail to Martha. He needed $10,000 bail and he didn’t want his mother to know. Martha, of course, would do anything for him but she’s the woman who has to save up to buy an app. She went to Dale, since he was hanging around outside her door anyway to ask her on a date, and agreed to accompany him to a movie “of the Pixar variety” if he could help Chip. So he drove up to his mother’s house and told her to get Chip out of jail and then just drove off. He never even got out of the car, just like Burt Reynolds shooting his scene in that one Smokey and the Bandit sequel.
We got to see a little of Martha and Dale’s terrible date and his subsequent meltdown. There’s an important difference between Chip and Dale – Chip can be a selfish jerk, but he’s not cruel. He tends to be thoughtless, but he doesn’t set out to hurt anybody. And if pressed, the odds are he’ll do the right thing. Dale is just an a-hole. He’s an entitled prick and somebody who tries to be hurtful when he doesn’t get his way. His rants are genuinely unsettling and there’s a weird satisfaction in seeing his life self-destruct. It was gratifying to see both Martha and his estranged wife just shut him down this week.
Christine was heartbreaking this week, even before she learned her son was in jail. Just watch as she proudly informs a friend that she’s working out and eating healthy and “I’ve already lost thirty-two ounces”. Chip’s arrest just played into her insecurities about whether she’s a good mother, and since Chip is almost incapable of providing comfort, it didn’t get better. There’s this great moment where late at night Christine heads out into the ocean for her water aerobics. It’s oddly beautiful in a way that’s hard to verbalize. Something about the way she’s holding on to her positive changes even when her routine is disrupted. And it’s Louie Anderson who not that long ago was in tears over having to wear a bathing suit on that celebrity diving show (Remember how that was a thing?), so there’s this extra layer of irony or reclamation or something. Like we said, it’s hard to verbalize.
Detroiters – It’s been a while since Comedy Central has really impressed us with a new series, but we’re firmly on board for Detroiters. This Jason Sudeikis-produced series stars Sam Richardson (Veep) and Tim Robinson (Saturday Night Live) as a pair of local ad guys in, well, Detroit. They specialize in low-budget late night commercials but they’re hustling to grab some bigger accounts. Like Chrysler in this episode, which guest-starred Sudeikis as an executive. And yeah, it’s a show about screw-ups barely scraping by. But luckily, it’s a very funny one. Richardson and Robinson have their “loveable dopes” chemistry down pat and they’re clever enough to make even the most cartoonish moments seem reasonable. There’s this great scene where they’re pulling an all-nighter on the Chrysler pitch until they discover that a window in their office is apparently unbreakable. All loopy from lack of sleep, they take turns just hurling things at that window to test its strength. Grown men just whipping fire extinguishers and ashtrays at a window when they’re supposed to be working.
It’s really funny. Thankfully, Detroiters doesn’t seem too interested in showing us wacky fake ads. Seeing a half-assed ad isn’t especially funny anymore, but hearing Sam and Tim work out a pitch that would require them to show a teenage girl getting her nipple pierced on camera is hysterical. (Later: “They’re not going to let us show a nipple.”) And what really makes it stand out (Honestly? We only barely remember the plot of the premiere.) is the relationship between Sam and Tim. These two goofs really care about one another. At the end of the first episode, we learn that they live next door to one another and Tim is married to Sam’s sister. It’s adorable! They’re leaning out their windows, talking to the guy they just spent all day with. Detroiters has a very sweet side that helps it stand out. We’re thoroughly charmed, and not just because it’s set in our home state.
That’s all we have time for this week – we’ll have a full review of the Legion pilot next week because we haven’t had time to form our thoughts or even commit to an opinion on what parts of the show actually happened. And we hope to finish Sneaky Pete and The Santa Clarita Diet, both of which are worth checking out. We also really enjoyed a glue-sniffing episode of New Girl and a guest appearance by spunkybuddy Jessica St. Clair on Teachers. (That show is a treasure.) And we didn’t bother covering Saturday Night Live because you’ve already seen the Trump sketch and the one with Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer. (Who knew that would be so perfect?) We’ll be back next week for more fun. Now get outta here!