Happy Friday! It’s the end of the work week and before you sneak out to see Mad Max: Fury Road, we’ve got a look at the Best TV Shows on TV. Every week we watch so much TV, and usually we come up with a funnier way to say that but, you know… Mad Max. We’re really preoccupied. Anyway, we watch it all and then we tell you about our favorites, as was written in the secret code on the back of the Constitution.
We’ve covered Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Agents of SHIELD and Dancing with the Stars already, but there’s still more.
Our returning Star of the Week is none other than Lennon Parham, who killed it on two different shows this week. First, on a standout episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, she played an easy listening DJ named Forsythia (Forsythia…). She read bizarre dedications from listeners and picked the appropriate song to express their feelings, which was always Hoobastank. Also, she consistently mispronounced “wind”, which got funnier every time. Forsythia (Forsythia…) was one of the best original characters to appear on the TV version of CBB and the only reason it wasn’t the funniest performance of the week was that Lennon appeared on Veep two days later.
Her character, Karen Collins, appeared at the end of last week’s episode as the President’s new advisor. We finally got to see her in action this week, and it was not at all what we expected. Given the tone of the show, we expected Karen to be something like Parham’s Miss Listler character (You’re all listening to the Womp it Up! podcast, right?), and we were wrong. Karen ingratiated herself to Selina by agreeing with everything she said and never taking a firm stance. Her opinion was always that they had to consider both sides of the issue. But she said it with such conviction that Selina didn’t pick up on the fact that she wasn’t adding anything to the discussion. It was great, and great in the way where virtually every one of her lines was laugh-out-loud funny. Veep is ridiculously stuffed with comedic talent. Their bench is so deep that they can put Patton Oswalt in a multi-week subplot where he never interacts with most of the regulars. They can toss in Hugh Laurie at the end of an episode like it’s no big deal. And still, Lennon Parham managed to steal the episode. Kudos to her!
And now for the shows!
Comedy Bang! Bang! – We already talked about Forsythia (Forsythia….), but we should at least mention the rest of the episode. Skylar Astin was the main guest, and he did a fine job. The plot of the episode has Scott failing his classes, which meant he couldn’t host the show. (Yes, this week Comedy Bang! Bang! takes place at a school. It was on a spaceship last week. Deal with it.) The president of the network brought in his daughter as a tutor, and Scott fell in love. (He was still a bad student, though.) A funny sequence plugged Scott’s fake psychic show, The Maker-Upper. He told everybody he was making it up, but they still wanted his advice anyway. Spunkybuddy Rich Sommer appeared in this bit, and he was great. And then another spunkybuddy, Marc Evan Jackson, showed up as Scott’s teacher. This was a great episode for funny people who are nice to us!
Louie – There was a lot going on in this episode, but we have to lead with the fact that spunkyfave Jon Glaser (Delocated, Parks and Recreation) appeared in this episode as a miserable version of himself (“Crazy Glasie”). This week’s show, titled “Untitled” and offering only the description “Jane goes to the doctor” hits on a lot of stuff early on. That brief visit to the doctor, Jane worrying that everybody in class hates her, Glaser telling people about Louie’s great bit and then trying to repeat it word for word right in front of him, a woman asking Louie to move a huge aquarium that was too large to be moved by a non-professional. It had all the makings of a quirky “day in the life” episode. And then Louie started having nightmares and more nightmares about having nightmares.
Remember last season in the first part of “Elevator” where Jane wakes up from a nightmare? Later, Louie assures her that she’s awake now, and she responds “No, I’m still dreaming. But I’m having a nice dream now.” And then that six-parter dealt with a lot of dream logic. This was sort of a follow-up to that, allowing a weird peak into Louie’s psyche. And old woman bit his hand right before he had to go on stage without pants, exposing crescent roll-like genitalia. He lost the ability to speak during a stand-up set and then a greased-up naked man attacked him. Then he’d dream about telling people about his dreams, and would be disappointed when something weird happened to remind him he was dreaming. It was Louie held prisoner by his own subconscious. It’s a tough episode to explain, but it’s compelling and visually really interesting. And weirdness aside, there’s nothing funnier than Glaser just not understanding why he can’t steal Louie’s stand-up bits. Like, he’d acknowledge that it was Louie’s bit “and now I’m doing it!” as if it were a compliment. There’s also a hysterical song that ends the episode, co-written by Louis C.K. It sounds like an old standard, but they mention diarrhea a lot.
Bob’s Burgers – This fun episode had the Belchers visit a fancy house that Teddy was watching for the owner. As you’d expect, they made their way inside and took advantage of the accommodations. While they were there, Louise and Linda decided that Helen, the owner, had killed her husband for the inheritance. Then Helen arrived home just before a storm stranded everybody. Teddy was smitten, Bob was doped up on painkillers, and Linda and the kids tried to solve a murder. Helen (voiced by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson) certainly seemed nice, and when Bob let the suspicions slip, she did everything she could to prove to Linda that she was innocent. There were some neat twists and a happy ending. Well, sort of. The people in the show thought it was happy, at least. But with this episode, Bob’s Burgers could have its own recurring Sideshow Bob-style character.
Community – This episode never could have aired on NBC. Famously, Dan Harmon had to sneak the first Dungeons & Dragons episode script past NBC because they were not interested. And this one was even stranger, as the episode opened with the whole gang taking a trip in Elroy’ RV/home with a giant hand strapped to the top. We learned bought the hand that the school couldn’t afford, they found a buyer who’d take it off their hands, and tensions were running high. That was it. There was no other exposition. Abed kept trying to flash back to “three weeks earlier” to fill in the backstory, but he kept hitting the moment when they agreed to sell the hand.
When a show pulls that trick, it’s usually to force you to pay more attention. Without context, anything could be important and you need to focus and put the pieces together. But in this case, we just had to rely on the character to let us know what was important. It’s a clever trick that only works if we care about the people we’re watching. In the absence of facts, we have to trust the gang as to what matters.
The RV ran out of gas and then the battery died, stranding them on a mountain road. Everybody turned on the Dean and Abed saved the day when he decided that he was actually in the future and this was a flashback. And so, he busted out a Winger-style speech and fixed everything. And the best part was that the speech only sort of made sense. Since we didn’t know why the Dean wanted a giant hand in the first place, we couldn’t tell if and why it was insightful. But it sounded good and it worked, so that’s what mattered.
Of course, none of this works if the jokes aren’t good. Luckily, it was a very funny episode. Elroy’s increasing exasperation, Frankie and Annie’s terrible method for dealing with being put on hold, the Dean’s standup set, Abed’s increasingly ineffective flashbacks, Space Elder Britta, which member of the gang they’d eat first (Annie). It perfectly hit that sweet spot of weird and funny. And just check out that final scene with Matt Besser and Danielle Schneider. It’s an actual hoot!
Silicon Valley – Pied Piper prepared to move out of Erlich’s house and into a fancy new office. (One floor beneath a modeling agency. This was a big selling point.) But when Hooli’s machinations forced them to build their own servers, they had to give up that dream and stay put. In fact, they needed to take over the garage, which forced Jared out. (He was living there without anybody knowing it.) He ended up bunking with Richard, and his propensity for screaming German words in his sleep didn’t help with Richard’s night sweats. And when Dinesh caused a blackout, they ran afoul of some nosy neighbors who could shut them down since they’re not zoned for business.
And over at Hooli, the genius brought in to partner with Big Head (and wasn’t it great to see Patrick Fischler of Mad Men and LOST?) built a prosthetic arm for a monkey and then quit the company over Big Head’s idiocy. That meant another promotion for the guy whose sole contribution to the company so far is building a non-working potato cannon. We know this is all part of Gavin Belson’s evil plan to claim ownership of the Pied Piper algorithm, but every Hooli scene is hilarious this season.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – In a break from B99 tradition, the crime Peralta and company investigated this week would actually have worked on a traditional cop show. Members of a gang of notorious burglars who had twenty-one million dollars squirreled away started turning up dead. Wuntch approved whatever resources Jake needed to solve the case, which Holt assumed had to be a trap. That included a chopper (or “helicopter” if you’re Holt) for a trip upstate. Jake, Boyle, and Holt solved the case and recovered the money, seemingly staying one step ahead of Wuntch. Sadly, that was her plan all along. She meant to use this as an excuse to promote her nemesis to a desk job in public relations. We hope this gets resolved next week instead of letting it simmer as a season finale cliffhanger! It’s great to see Holt working a case, especially alongside Jake. He even gave in and took the cool nickname “Velvet Thunder”.
Back at the precinct, Terry brought in a class for a field trip, hoping to impress the school enough that they’d admit his daughters into their preschool. It went well at first, then Rosa showed them a bag of hands and Gina got far too involved in the social lives of children. Terry ultimately turned it into a win because he’s Terry. He’s the most charming man in the world!
The Daily Show – When The Daily Show’s Senior Women’s Issues correspondent Kristen Schaal shows up, we know we’re in for a fantastic time. As usual, she didn’t disappoint with her segment this week on the sudden, silly popularity of “Dad Bods”. We know you’ll enjoy the whole darn segment!
That’s it for this week! Join us next week for a whole bunch of season finales, and be sure you check in during the week for our coverage of the Mad Men series finale. We’re sure to be weepy. Enjoy the weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday for another week of TV!