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Wednesday Comedy Roundup: Back in the Game 1.03, Modern Family 5.04, Super Fun Night 1.02, Always Sunny 9.06,

MAGGIE LAWSON, JAMES CAAN, DEE DEE RESCHER

Back in the Game, Season 1, Episode 3, “Play Hard or Go Home”
Directed by Eyal Gordin
Written by Gregg Mettler
Airs Wednesdays at 8:30pm EST on ABC

Wednesday’s line-up is continuing to be the strongest this fall as the new shows begin to find their footing. Back in the Game is a lot stronger this week, as “Play Hard or Go Home” starts to follow a more enjoyable format. The episode is much more entertaining than the first two, as it finds a way to include all of the characters. So far the focus is usually just on Terry and while it is entertaining, the show really feels like it’s missing something. The strongest part of this episode is that The Cannon gets a bigger and more meaningful storyline. Back in the Game is quite similar to The Goldbergs in that they both portray a more accurate depiction of family life than we usually see in sitcoms; the shows also share a familiar granddad-grandson dynamic.. This week The Cannon devises an elaborate ploy just to prove a point, the same way Beverly does.

As always, sexism is ever present and this week it becomes almost unbearable to watch. The male characters, big or small, continue to objectify Terry. In this week’s episode a number of obscene comments are made towards her, and although it’s great that the show focuses on how she rises above it and all, the scenes are growing more uncomfortable each week. Terry continues to prove her dedication to the team and ability to overcome obstacles. She shows the boys how it’s done in the opening scene and continues to rise to Dick’s challenges throughout the episode. In “Play Hard or Go Home”, we also see more of Terry and The Cannon acting like a family. This week she goes out of her way to try find him companionship and as always The Cannon’s stubbornness is hilarious to watch. The best part of this storyline is how the kids find the chosen woman. Like New Girl on Tuesday nightBack in the Game successfully plays on classic sitcom formats, particularly in the sequence where the kids explore the parking lot.

This week we finally see the show return to Danny’s story arc that was first seen in the pilot episode. “Play Hard or Go Home” does an excellent job of showing just how great these kids are. Watching the nice guy try get the girl who has a terrible boyfriend is something that’s been done countless times. The twist this time is that it isn’t set in high school or college. This means that it shouldn’t be completely nauseating to watch because it’ll presumably be very innocent. There won’t be any sex and watching Danny win Vanessa will be sweet, as demonstrated in this episode. It’s also great watching them come up with creative ways for Danny to impress Vanessa. J. J. Totah as Michael continues to be most entertaining child on the show. Despite playing a very stereotypical kind of character, he provides some of the best lines this week.

JULIE BOWEN, ERIC STONESTREET, ED O'NEILL, NOLAN GOULD, RICO RODRIGUEZ, SARAH HYLAND, DANA POWELL, JESSE TYLER FERGUSON, SOFIA VERGARA

Modern Family, Season 5, Episode 4, “Farm Strong”
Directed by Alisa Statman
Written by Elaine Ko
Airs on Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on ABC

Like the previous season of Modern Family, season five is shaping up to be rather hit and miss. This week’s episode is particularly unentertaining as it does nothing to move the characters and their story arcs forward. It’s also very slow-placed, which is highly unusual for the show. “Farm Strong” takes too long to get to the driving plot of the episode and fails to make us laugh until it’s nearly over. Although this week’s episode isn’t that amusing, it does showcase some familiar character traits, such as the creative way Jay and Manny prove Gloria needs glasses and the way everything everyone is saying triggers Phil.

There are some good moments though, such as Dana Powell guest starring as Cam’s sister. She does a great job providing some entertainment. Her arrival creates some tension as well, a hilarious scene where the entire family proves how sensitive Cam is – this scene is definitely the highlight of the episode. Eric Stonestreet always delivers and the chemistry he and Powell share makes them believable siblings. Whether he’s fighting with his sister, playing straight on the phone, or saying mean remarks, Cam continues to be the funniest character of the show. In recent seasons he has become somewhat the star of the show, as his and Mitchell’s narratives are always the strongest and most entertaining.

Although this is a fairly negative review, the show should be applauded for its excellent portrayal of how families can insensitively deal with sensitive issues. In this episode in particular, Gloria, Jay, and Cam all have to confront or deal with something none of them want to. Something Modern Family continues to do in these newer episodes is explore how the different characters deal with similar situations. Though it could be executed in a more entertaining manner, “Farm Strong” does a good job in exposing most of the character’s flaws and exploring the true meaning of family. As Haley tactlessly exposes Jay’s terrible hearing and the whole group verbally attack Cam, the show continues to depict real ways families tend to deal with things.

LAUREN ASH, REBEL WILSON, LIZA LAPIRA

Super Fun Night, Season 1, Episode 2, “Three Men and a Boubier”
Directed by Jeffrey Walker
Written by Brent Forrester
Airs on Wednesdays at 9:30pm (EST) on ABC

Since its premiere, Super Fun Night has received a number of different responses. One that stands out in particular is Jana Eleanor’s post for Portable titled “7 Pieces of Offensive Dialogue From the Super Fun Night pilot“. A lot of critics feel the show is offensive to fat women just because Rebel Wilson is completely comfortable with herself. Admittedly it is a little disappointing when what Kendall says about “selling the fantasy” gets into Kimmie’s head, but people are taking the show way too seriously and ignoring some of the things the show does do right. Super Fun Night is shaping up to be a real testament to friendship. In the premiere we saw Marika immediately tell Richard how it is because she knows how much Kimmie likes him. Throughout that episode we saw the trio constantly pick each other up and do things for the sake of each other’s happiness, and that continues this week.

Although at the moment Super Fun Night feels a little rigid at times in term of comedy, it does show some promising elements. There’s the rivalry between Kendall and Kimmie, for one. It continues to spark controversy, and people are watching because of it. Richard continues to disagree and annoy Kendall no matter how hard she tries to push Kimmie out of the picture. In comparison to the premiere, not much progression is made this week between Kimmie and Richard. However the episode does introduce some interesting new characters. “Three Men and a Boubier” should be applauded for its incorporation of a common online dating problem. It’s a fairly accurate, not to mention amusing, depiction of what it now known as “cat-fishing”. Although the girls aren’t really on board with the outcome of Kimmie’s lies, they go with it anyway because they’re decent human beings. The three guys are stereotypically nerdy but Super Fun Night shows them as people with feelings too, which is something that wouldn’t happen if they were like Kendall. Although there aren’t many laughs, the episode is constructed pretty well. For every scene with Kimmie and the girls, a scene of Richard in another “date” environment follows. “Three Men and a Boubier” delivers the wrong message at the beginning (they don’t get any dates being themselves) but this is redeemed in the end by the girls being honest. A lot of these new network comedies do not find their footing until the fourth or fifth episode- hopefully Super Fun Night will soon.

Always Sunny S05E06

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 9, Episode 6, “The Gang Saves the Day”
Directed by Dan Attias
Written by Dave Chernin & John Chernin
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm (EST) on FXX

This week’s episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is similar to the third episode of this same season because it takes place outside of the show’s usual narrative. Yhis episode follows a clear structure like “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award”, and is even more peculiar. Although what’s going on is quite out of character for the show, “The Gang Saves the Day” still showcases everyone’s hilariously bad traits. It also does a good job in providing entertainment through their ridiculous daydreams. The episode follows a very particular narrative structure perhaps most famously present in Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run. This is something a number of different shows, comedies and dramas, have done and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of the most successful.

Run Lola Run shows the audience three different outcomes of the situation and each story begins at the same moment. What’s creative about this parody in particular is that although each cutaway starts at the same point, they all end up focusing on things completely unrelated to the initial situation. Nobody else survives in each of the character’s imaginations and they all focus on their future after the event, which once again perfectly showcases how selfish and self-involved the gang are. There are a lot of hilarious film references throughout this episode and unlike last week, the gang are all equally as amusing.

It’s a particularly ridiculous and silly episode, but because of the characters, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia makes it work. As the episodes are generally quite short, it becomes clear halfway through that not every character’s story will be equally long. Frank’s is cut short, but it’s still just as satisfying. Another great thing this installment and the show in general does is reference or even directly quote past episodes. It’s not always done amazingly but in this episode the show really benefits from this trait. In Dee’s imagination for example, she marries Josh Groban. Groban makes a hilarious guest appearance and quotes from season six’s “Mac’s Mom Burns Her House Down” are incorporated. If this was any other show, the ending would be arguably anti-climatic and completely unsatisfying, this is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and nine episodes in, it continues to show us what a real sitcom is.

– Catstello


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Fourteen character posters for Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac’