The Morning Round-Up: 'Up All Night,' 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern Family' & 'Happy Endings'
Last week's morning round-up post was well-received, and it seems like doing that from time to time gives me a chance to touch on shows which I would otherwise not have the time or material to devote full posts to. Today, I'm going to stick with the Wednesday comedies I watched last night, with brief thoughts on, in order, "Up All Night," "Suburgatory," "Modern Family" and "Happy Endings," coming up just as soon as I have a Master's in "gotcher nose!"...
I noted last week that "Up All Night" had essentially turned into two separate shows, and that while I often enjoyed the workplace material, it had no real connection to Reagan and Chris as new parents. "Mr. Bob's Toddler Kaleidoscope" did a much better job of integrating the two halves, with Reagan grappling with the familiar problem of not having enough time for either her family or her job these days. And it did it in amusing ways, whether with the transvestite Bangles cover band (and I vote for The Dangles as being more clever than Manic Man-Day), Chris becoming an eager pupil of Michael Hitchcock's Mr. Bob (who was just the right side of cartoonish) or Reagan feuding with the other mom, played by Missi Pyle(*), before the two ultimately bonded over the difficulty in collapsing the fancy stroller. They've done funnier overall episodes so far, but this seemed the most balanced outing to date.
(*) As with Will Arnett, Pyle's an actress who all too often is asked to play larger-than-life characters (I'm still shocked David E. Kelley hasn't built a whole show around her, though he came close with "The Wedding Bells"), and it was nice to see her play just a person for once.
"Suburgatory," meanwhile, went even more blatantly "Mean Girls" with all the references to the behavior of jungle animals, and also with Tessa's brief rise to social importance, and I like how that story neatly paralleled George's own rapid ascent to the top of the PTA pyramid. Jeremy Sisto continues to be a really pleasant surprise; he's played intense, borderline-crazy dramatic characters for so long that it's almost shocking to see him so at ease in a scene like the one where George is objecting to the lemon squares and lemonade even as he's enjoying how good they are. And the only thing that would've made the mom jeans gag better would be if Ana Gasteyer had been in the original "SNL" ad about them.
Most importantly, though, I'm glad that the brief appearance in the pilot by Maestro Harrell - whom you might remember as Randy Wagstaff on "The Wire" - as "diversity student" Malik led to a much bigger role in this episode. Harrell's a funny, likable actor (Malik trying out catchphrases in the handicap stall was great), and I hope he continues to be part of the growing ensemble.
I'm of two minds on last night's "Modern Family." On the one hand, I will hate the people who make this show forever for reminding me of the existence of '70s yacht rockers England Dan and John Ford Coley(**) and their hit "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," which has been running through my head on a non-stop loop since around 9:20 last night. On the other hand, the episode gave employment to another actor from one of my favorite shows who doesn't work enough, casting Samm Levine as Jay's d-bag client (who was, predictably but amusingly dazzled by Gloria's "wow" factor), and all the material about the damage Phil inflicted on the kids and the guys' trip to collect Haley's money was really, really funny. So I'll forgive them on the '70s flashback, but only just.
(**) Question: at what point do we need to put a moratorium on inappropriate fist-name humor? Should we wait until every primetime comedy gets around to it, or will that just keep it going forever, because there will always be new comedies with new inadequately masculine characters to name their fists?
Finally, Megan Mullally visited "Happy Endings," and gave Casey Wilson the opportunity to display another of the many talents that "SNL" somehow never figured out how to exploit. That said, "Yesandwitch" wasn't one of the show's stronger episodes, with Brad and Jane's couples improv (and mainly Damon Wayans Jr.'s deliberately awful JFK impression) being the only consistent source of laughter. The show has established something of a formula already, with the characters trying on different guises each week (Penny as a singer, Dave as a Navajo, Brad and Jane as tourists, etc.), and sometimes that works very well. Here, mostly flat, though I did enjoy Wilson and Mullally's Natalie Imbruglia duet.
What did everybody else think?
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
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