Wednesday Comedy Roundup: Back in the Game 1.01, Modern Family 5.01 & 5.02, Always Sunny 9.04, The League 5.04


Back in the Game, Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot“ 
Directed by Robb & Mark Cullen
Written by John Requa & Glenn Ficarra
Airs Wednesdays at 8:30pm EST on ABC

Following the success of HBO’s Eastbound and Down and FX/FXX’s The League, it was only a matter of time before more sports-driven sitcoms emerged. The Back In The Game’s pilot isn’t the strongest or the most inspiring, but it’s certainly not the worst either. The premise of the show is quite promising because it’s focused on likeable, underdog type of characters instead of just obnoxious men (unlike some of the other new shows). Although there are a few horrible and sexist men present, the pilot suggests that the rest of the series will be spent exploring how our female leads challenge and outsmart them. Although that’s the driving force of the show, a large part of the show will focus on Terri and her family as well. People tuning in just for James Caan will not be left disappointed- he plays the bitter and slightly deranged old man extremely well. Throughout the pilot we learn a number of things he’s done to Terri in the past and can see exactly why she is full of resentment. Caan and the lead, Maggie Lawson, bounce off each other quite well, and the tension is believable enough for the audience to want to see how they’ll rebuild their relationship.

The pilot starts off a little awkwardly, with two unnecessary cutaways that fail to introduce us to the characters properly. Midway through they’re repeated, this time in context, further cementing that Terri’s scene is the only one needed at the beginning. The show has real potential if it continues to explore Terri’s childhood and the issues she has with her father. It’s really nice to see some more realistic families and home lives among the new pilots this season- not everybody’s family is as big and loving as ABC’s Modern Family. The pilot itself isn’t all that amusing, but it’s still engaging and it sets up the rest of the season quite nicely. With two opposites working together, and a bunch of misfits in tow, Back in the Game promises a refreshing and funny take on families, sports, and Little League baseball.

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Modern Family, Season 5, Episode 1, “Suddenly, Last Summer”
Directed by James Bagdonas
Written by Jeffrey Richan
Airs on Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on ABC

It looks like we’ll finally be getting that wedding we’ve all been waiting for in this season of Modern Family. Last season was quite hit and miss, in comparison to its nearly flawless previous ones, however it did make up for its lack of comedy by focusing more on emotion, the season four finale being particularly touching. Season five seems to be following suit with a happier, lovely, and heartwarming reintroduction. Modern Family perfected their balance of comedy and emotion a long time ago, before becoming mostly sad in the fourth season, and judging by this season’s premiere, things are back on track.

Although the episode focuses on how Mitch and Cam are going to propose to one another, it’s about a lot more as well. Modern Family has a fantastic habit of focusing on one storyline whilst seamlessly tying in several others. Even if the episode is lacking in comedy, the unraveling of the several narratives going on never fails to impress. Throughout the episode we see different sides to both Mitch and Claire that we never knew existed- while Mitch plans his romantic gesture, Claire chimes in with somewhat psychotic suggestions. Not only does this make them seem even more like siblings, it’s also a treat to see Claire delivering some great lines; she’s not the show’s strongest character and rarely gets to provide much comedy on her own. It’s also nice seeing Mitch stand up for himself to his client and stop him from having his way with Haley.

All this talk of marriage and proposals leads the rest of the family to think about their engagement stories. We learn a lot through each story, and once again it’s pleasant to watch but isn’t as funny as it could be. “Suddenly, Last Summer” serves as a reminder of how much the Pritchett side of the family has grown as individuals. Jay, Claire, and Mitch are the least romantic in their marriages and partnerships, and in this this heartfelt season premiere we are reminded that it’s their families that bring out the best of them.

Modern Family, Season 5, Episode 2, “First Days”
Directed by Steven Levitan
Written by Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh
Airs on Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on ABC

The second part of the fifth season premiere for Modern Family does a good job in showing the audience how much has changed since the pilot, for the children in particular. With the kids all starting high school, hilarity and heartbreak should be provided by watching the adults try to adjust. This is going to be entertaining for both parents and children watching at home, as both parties can relate. Luke in particular has matured a hell of a lot, which will be a real struggle for the over-emotional Phil Dunphy. Nolan Gould has grown taller and skinner, and genuinely more grown up looking where the rest of the cast have been able to retain the same look. It’s not exceptionably distracting, but it could be more noticeable when he shares scenes with Rico Rodriguez, who plays Manny. It’ll be interesting to see if the show addresses this.

As well as a wedding and school, there are also a number of other changes going on this season as well. Cam and Claire start new jobs which leaves more shared screen time for Phil and Gloria. In the last season the writers started to pair Phil and Gloria together a bit more, and it worked really well. Although it may not seem it at times, Phil’s character has actually developed a quite a bit. In the earlier seasons he was awkwardly attracted to his father-in-law’s new wife, now he has become less awkward and as a result of that, has actually been able to be there for her. The most hilarious example can be seen in season four’s “My Hero“, and now in “First Days”, Gloria is able to return the favour.

It’s always funny watching Cam dive into a new venture and the shot of him being pushed along on the field is fantastic. Cam is a great character and Eric Stonestreet continues to be the best part of the show. Now that they’ve decided to get married, a number of hilarious bridezilla type moments are bound to follow. Watching Claire want to defy her father and not take his advice so much is equally as entertaining. It’ll be interesting to see if she’ll succeed and do well with this new job. The only character whose future hasn’t been established yet is Haley’s. After dropping out of college the writers haven’t quite found what they should do with her yet. Despite this, season five is already off to a really strong start. With all these exciting new ventures and developments, it’s fair to say Modern Family feels like it could be better than ever.

Always Sunny S09E04

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 9, Episode 4, “Mac and Dennis Buy a Timeshare”
Directed by Dan Attias
Written by Dave Chernin & John Chernin
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm (EST) on FXX

After last week’s not so subtle episode, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns to its usual beloved format this week. From the moment Dee finishes attempting to explain her new business venture, it’s absolutely clear how the rest of the episode is going to play out. This is a common problem when it comes to sitcoms, and for one that’s been running for as long as It’s Always Sunny, some of the endings are going to be extremely predictable. Interestingly enough, this recycled problem is only annoying in a handful of shows and It’s Always Sunny is never usually one of them. You may know exactly what’s coming next but it’s almost always extremely entertaining.

With Charlie and Dee working on Invigaron, that leaves Mac and Dennis to go out of their way to prove to them that they can’t be scammed. Which of course means they will end up getting even more scammed than Charlie and Dee. The Gang are all painfully gullible and ignorant, and it’s always entertaining watching them believe what they’re told and acting irrationally because of it. What makes it even more hilarious is just how smug and awful Mac and Dennis act. Nine seasons in and it seems that they’re becoming even worse human beings and hilariously so. This becomes apparent when they all meet at Army Ben’s with the exact same objective. What keeps the show entertaining is the variety to their different subgenres of terrible. Charlie is fairly clueless, Mac is just a complete idiot, Dee and Dennis are the smug type of stupid, whereas most of the time Frank knows exactly what he’s doing. Though it is never explained exactly how or why Frank got stuck in a coil, that scene at the end is great. All in all, this episode marks a step up from recent episodes that will hopefully be maintained over the rest of the season.

The League S05E04
The League, Season 5, Episode 4, “Rafi and Dirty Randy”
Directed by Jeff Schaffer
Written by Jason Mantzoukas & Seth Rogen
Airs Wednesdays at 10:30pm (EST) on FXX

Four episodes into the fifth season of The League and we’re finally treated to a great episode. Up until now, all the episodes have been boring and lacking in humor. In recent seasons, The League has been at it’s best when recycling old comedy and exploring the hierarchy of the show. Although neither of these things really come in to play in “Rafi and Dirty Randy”, it’s still a brilliant episode, mainly because Seth Rogen is a great writer, and him and Jason Mantzoukas as Rafi are both ridiculous and they’re fantastic together.

The whole episode serves as a testament to everything we love about Rafi and Dirty Randy. Setting off to Los Angeles for “VIGILANTE JUSTICE!”, “Rafi and Dirty Randy” is full of hilarious and outrageous comedy, montages, and disgusting banter. It’s great to see The League dedicate a whole episode to its minor characters, even if it feels like a one time occurrence. Although this is an absolutely fantastic episode, it does bare several questions. As it is set a year in advance it isn’t clear what timeframe the next episode will take place. With Rafi dead, a year in advance, it’s possible he could return if the rest of the season returns to present day. If they do get rid of Rafi however, would Dirty Randy ever make an appearance again? If he did, would it be as funny? If The League decides to explore the aftermath of his death it would be funny watching the usual guys having to interact with Rafi and Dirty Randy’s associates. It’s going to be extremely hard to top this week’s episode, but hopefully the rest of the season will follow suit.

– Catstello

Here Be Dragons: ‘Ghost in the Shell’

The Bridge promo pic, S01E12, "All About Eva"

The Bridge, Ep. 1.12, “All About Eva”: Strong performances buoy transitional episode