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Wednesday Comedy Roundup: Back in the Game 1.02, Modern Family 5.03, Super Fun Night 1.01, Always Sunny 9.05, The League 5.05

TYRONE POWELL, ALVIN COWAN, BEN KOLDYKE, AVERY WARE, MAGGIE LAWSON

Back in the Game, Season 1, Episode 2, “Stay In or Bail Out”
Directed by Eric Appel
Written by Warren Lieberstein
Airs Wednesdays at 8:30pm EST on ABC

Following its awkward pilot last weekBack in the Game continues to struggle with establishing the format of the show. Although “Stay In or Bail Out” successfully moves the characters forward, it fails to show the audience how the show will operate each week. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means the audience can’t fully decide whether the show is worth investing time in yet.

Back in the Game has a very interesting premise, and with two polar opposites working together, the show should provide some laughs, but at the moment this is something it’s failing to do. Although the show appears to be about kids playing baseball, Back in the Game actually focuses on a strong female lead and how she overcomes the sexism that surrounds her. In the pilot we saw a little sexism coming from the appropriately named Dick and this week we see a lot more. The sexist male characters are unbearably nauseating and are really overplayed. Unfortunately this is a fairly accurate depiction of some people’s attitudes out there and the only good part about it is how it doesn’t phase Terry. Although we haven’t seen a great deal from Dick, it’s enough to get a good judge of character. He represents one of the worst aspects of sports- how competitive guys get when playing or coaching. The way the guys trash talk each other is quite entertaining, especially when Dick gets annoyed that nothing seems to bother her. But with Terry now working for one of Dick’s chain of “awesome things”, it feels like they will probably soon end up being romantic interests.

Another big part of the show is Terry’s relationship with her father and the influence he has on both her and the kids. It’s clear that entertainment is going to be provided through the Cannon’s tougher approach but this week it’s too much too soon. Taking the kids to the prison could have been really entertaining but because it’s only the second episode it feels like the show is trying too hard. Having said that, some of it is funny but it’s all because of the kids. Although the format is still a little unclear, there is a very strong feeling that the Cannon’s misguided attempts to teach the kids a lesson will become a regular occurrence, as well as the moment this episode concludes with. Like last week, “Stay In or Bail Out” ends with a moment between Terry and her father that reminds them, as well as the audience, that they are family. It’s a sad but touching moment for the pair, and the show should definitely continue to incorporate moments like this.

Modern Family S05E03

Modern Family, Season 5, Episode 3, “Larry’s Wife”
Directed by Jeffrey Walker
Written by Bill Wrubel
Airs on Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on ABC

Following its strong two-part premiereModern Family continues to show the audience this week exactly what this new season has in store for us. All of the characters have evolved or grown up in some way and this is completely on show throughout the entire episode. Once again all of the characters have separate storylines that function well simultaneously and by the end of the episode they all realise the same thing – that in some way they all need one another.

The first example can seen in the opening plot of the episode, Phil enjoying the work he’s currently doing. It’s good to see Phil doing well as the writers are starting to give him better narratives. He’s feeling good about the amount of work he’s juggling, but with the silly elements of his personality still evidently on show, it’s clear that it’s going to backfire in his face. The only thing Phil realises is Claire is normally always right. However, the scene in the supermarket is brilliantly executed and extremely funny to watch. The rest of the Dunphy family also spend some more time together this week and realise they function better as a team. With Luke looking noticeably more mature, the show has addressed this by writing more adult storylines for him, as we see him running a poker game this week. It’s great getting Haley and Alex involved, as Alex has grown entertainingly more like her siblings and Haley hasn’t really had much to do so far.

With Luke growing older, Manny has to as well and this week Modern Family also explores that. As he spends some time with Jay it feels like he is reaching that horrible, angsty period we all go through. It doesn’t provide much hilarity but it’s good character development for both Manny and Jay and shows how they’re becoming more of a family, as Jay has rubbed off on Manny. Sadly, Gloria’s storyline is also not that entertaining this week, which is odd because she is usually one the funniest characters. It’s not a good week for the Delgado-Pritchett clan, but it will be interesting to see if Manny grows angrier.

Like always the strongest plot of the episode belongs to Cam and Mitchell. Following their recent engagement, “Larry’s Wife” explores how the two of them are dealing with the wedding planning. With the pair deciding that Cam should do all the planning, this episode shows us the intensity of one of Mitch’s character traits. The real comedy is provided through Cam’s inability to deal with a sensitive issue he needs to address with Lily. Instead of being honest with her about her cat, the lie turns into one, big, ridiculously funny event. The funeral for Larry’s fake cat-wife provides the opportunity to bring Dylan back. He’s a great character and hopefully we’ll see some more of him this season. With Cam and Mitch both realising they should plan the wedding together, the wedding planning feels like it’s about to get a whole lot more entertaining.

LIZA LAPIRA, LAUREN ASH, REBEL WILSON

Super Fun Night, Season 1, Episode 1, “Anything for Love”
Directed by Alex Hardcastle
Written by John Riggi
Airs on Wednesdays at 9:30pm (EST) on ABC

Super Fun Night is one of the more exciting shows to start this fall and the first episode suggests we’re in for a fun and entertaining season. The show lives up to expectations almost immediately with its outstanding cast and familiar workplace setting. Unlike a lot of the pilots we’ve seen this fall, Super Fun Night wastes no time in presenting the characters and explaining their motives straight away. This is done extremely well and it’s clear that the show will focus on Kimmie’s desire for Richard and how Kendall will try her best to come between them.

Although the show appears to follow the classic sitcom structure, it feels very film-orientated too. It’s very music-driven and a number of romantic-comedy tropes are incorporated as well, the best example being Kimmie’s speech in the bathroom about high school bullies. Super Fun Night feels completely different from the trailer. A lot of these network comedies are guilty of making their trailer a cutdown of the entire pilot. This could just be a side effect of ABC pulling the original pilot in favor of the second episode, but either way, it makes this premiere even more enjoyable.  Another filmic element is the way Kate Jenkinson plays character Kendall Quinn. She goes above and beyond to impress Richard and, refreshingly, he completely ignores her and supports Kimmie throughout the episode. It’s clear that Kendall is going to be the character audiences will love to hate but it will be interesting to see how and when she’ll get to Richard.

It’s great seeing really funny British comedians Matt Lucas and Kevin Bishop on the show. Matt Lucas hasn’t done much for a while and he is already great friends with Rebel Wilson, so the scenes they share together should be great. It’s particularly enjoyable watching Kevin Bishop in a more stable role, as people in the UK are only familiar with his appearances in sketch and spoof comedy shows. It’s also great seeing Liza Lapira get a second shot at network comedy. Her role on the short-lived Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 was really funny, so it’s good to see her on a new show with a bigger role. In general her, Lauren Ash, and Rebel Wilson work together nicely. Their friendship is believable, despite the fact Ash overplays her character a little when meeting Richard. “Anything for Love” does its job successfully, priming the audience to enjoy a full season.

Always Sunny S09E04 promo pic 2 small

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 9, Episode 5, “Mac Day”
Directed by Richie Keen
Written by Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton & Rob McElhenney
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm (EST) on FXX

This week’s episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia isn’t as great as it could be. With Mac basing his day around The Seven Days of Creation, the writers really miss an opportunity to do something creative with its guest star. Seann William Scott stars as Mac’s cousin who is referred to as Country Mac. Throughout the episode he doesn’t really do that much, the humor from his appearance provided through the way The Gang act around him. The episode suffers from its focus on Mac- he’s not the show’s funniest character. He’s at his best when he’s paired with other characters, particularly Dennis or Charlie. Most of the comedy that stems from Mac is how annoyed The Gang get with him, so when they’re all ignoring him this week, it really isn’t that fun to watch.

The episode is driven by Mac’s desire to be respected and wanted by the Gang. While Mac isn’t the strongest character, he appears to be the most childlike. When he starts desperately competing for the group’s attention, it all feels a little too much. “Mac Day” isn’t all bad though; there are a few moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. Watching The Gang try so hard to act natural in front of the camera is extremely funny. The highlight of that scene has to be Dennis stating they don’t know each other, then proceeding to shake Frank’s hand. It’s also great to see the running joke of Mac struggling with his sexuality return this week, particularly when The Gang comment on his boner on two separate occasions. All The Gang ever want to do is prove their point and they’ll go to any extreme to do so – it just works better when Mac isn’t alone.

The League S05E05

The League, Season 5, Episode 5, “The Bye Week”
Directed by Jeff Schaffer
Written by Jeff Schaffer, Jackie Marcus Schaffer & Justin Hurwitz
Airs Wednesdays at 10:30pm (EST) on FXX

Following last week’s excellent episode, this week’s instalment of The League is dedicated to what the rest of the guys did whilst Rafi and Dirty Randy were away.  Although it’s great seeing Ruxin back on our screens, the episode doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form. When an episode takes place outside of the show’s normal continuity and abandons any sense of realism, it usually only works for a one-off special episode, and usually on happens once per season. Having two consecutive episodes like this doesn’t work unless it’s in two parts and focuses on the same characters. Where Rafi and Dirty Randy are so different from the usual suspects, it’s really hard to believe and enjoy this episode. Considering how many misses this current season of The League has had so far, this is a very risky decision the writers and show creators have made. Where these characters aren’t as outrageous and ridiculous as the other two, this unusual format becomes really distracting. Part of the problem is just this episode having to follow last week’s outing; it was going to be almost impossible for this one to be even better.

Taco’s truck feels like the writers have really run out of ideas for his character and the show. It’s not really that interesting and in some misguided attempt at comedy, the show tries to make light of children being molested. Another boring part of this episode is when Ruxin gets into trouble at the airport. Having a character get investigated because they are openly saying the word bomb is not only an unfunny storyline, it’s one we’ve seen fail to inspire a number of different times. Now that this episode is out of the way, hopefully the show will return to its usual format and start entertaining us again. It would be a shame to see The League go bad for good since it is one of the most creative and truly hilarious shows we have seen in recent years.

– Catstello


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