Splitsider

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Tuesday Night Sitcom Recap: 'Happy Endings,' 'New Girl,' and More Celebrate Halloween

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Halloween is the best holiday for sitcoms. Things can get a little mushy for Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day bog characters down with romantic plotlines instead of laughs, and the Fourth of July falls during the network sitcom off-season. Halloween, on the other hand, is full of costumes, mischief, and plenty of opportunities for low-stakes laughs.

This week, all the Tuesday night sitcoms celebrated All Hallow's Eve, with the Happy Endings gang pulling out all the stops for an elaborate costume, New Girl hitting a haunted house, and Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project stressed out about a Halloween party. Let's take a look at last night's shows, shall we?

Happy Endings: "Sabado Free-Gante"

CLAY:"Sabado Free-Gante" proves once again that Happy Endings is a show to be reckoned with, filled with quick wit and on-point references. The episode begins with the obligatory Halloween aspect, as the six dress up as "Marionette Jackson 5." We then see the monthly Saturday Brunch at Brad and Jane’s, which is less than stellar due to brad’s recent firing. This is where we get the pairing-off of Alex and Dave, Jane and Penny, and Brad and Max.

Alex and Dave have decided to take the next step with their relationship and move in together. They meet with real estate agent Suzanne Tom-Son-Perez-Cline-Jenson (Rachel Harris), who is determined to find them the perfect apartment. They of course are not ready for this and turn down each place with a new complaint. My personal favorites were “too Shia LeBeouffy,” “Definitely haunted,” and “the chandelier being too low for chicken-fights.” Meanwhile, Jane and Penny have ventured to the dealership of the “Car Czar” for Penny to buy a car. The idea that Penny suspects Jane of being a witch was my favorite part of this storyline. The interactions between Guy (Robert Bagnell), the salesman, and Penny were perfectly timed, as well as Pam Murphy’s brilliant cameo bringing in water (she reads these, right?). Also, Rob Corddry shows up at the end of the episode as the Car Czar and hires Jane as his negotiator.

Finally, we see Max taking Brad out for a Saturday in Max World™® to try and make up for his lost Saturdays of luxury. They enjoy free food from support groups, free clothes from promotional stands, and a free workout provided by the tough guy Max punches. Finally, when they are enjoying a steam from a sidewalk vent, Brad’s old work friend assumes he has become homeless. The best part of Max World™® is the pit stop at a young kid’s birthday party to avoid their “trainer.”

Here are the best quotes from each character:
Brad: “I miss time of the month club the most. Don’t worry it’s not what you think. It’s a clock that tells you when your period’s coming.”

Max: “Dave, I’m going to miss you paying all of the rent- I mean half of the rent, no one is scamming anyone.”

Penny: “Oh, right. How much do you tip on a car? 15%? 20?”

Alex: “Why don’t we make is a 10 year lease? Or 20- or 40! Let’s die in this bitch!”

Jane: “No one should ever leave their house without their ideal salary written on a folded up piece of paper.”

Dave: “Stop! Before you start, just stop right in your tracks!”

New Girl: "Halloween"

SAMANTHA: From a horrifying haunted house to a barrage of scary relationship issues, this Halloween-themed episode of New Girl is appropriately spooky (despite everyone’s overwhelmingly cute costume choices, like Nick’s punny “Bee Arthur” and Schmidt’s Magic Mike tribute). It all starts innocently enough: Nick’s college crush Amelia (Maria Thayer) is coming to town, and he’s finally ready to confess his love for her. Amelia falls for it (even remembering Nick’s old alter ego, “the guy who had been in a coma who woke up thinking he had invented pie”), but turns out to be a little more enthusiastic than Nick anticipated. Meanwhile, Jess’s no-strings-attached arrangement with Sam gets complicated when she finds out he’s a pediatric ER doctor. Though she’s determined to keep things casual (“I’m gonna kick him to the curb once I use his body like a moisturizer sample”), she finds herself developing Real Feelings, and when Sam passes her “is he into me?” test – showing up at the haunted house she works at, with a costume, because she asked him to – she decides to try and level up to something more substantial. Unsurprisingly, the sexy doctor turns out to have some other girls on the side; when Nick finds out, he rushes to the haunted house to warn Jess, but he ends up punching her in the face instead (terrified by a costume he’d earlier labeled “zombie Woody Allen”). Jess goes ahead with her plan to ask Sam on a real, romantic date, and ends up getting her hopes dashed by his desire to keep things simple. Nick, having learned a lesson about the gulf between expectations and reality, feels bold enough to break things off with Amelia.

Unfortunately, the heartbreak doesn’t end there. Schmidt, in his ongoing campaign to win Cece back, plans his Young Abe Lincoln costume to coordinate with her gown, despite the fact that she’s there with Robbie (who’s sporting an adorable homemade ninja turtle outfit, and a cryptic warning: “Keep the pumpkins away, I kind of cut myself last Halloween”). When Schmidt’s advances get a little too intense, even happy-go-lucky Robbie gets a little irked, and the two men end up having a heart to heart. In an unexpected compromise made over fried turkey dinners, the three of them – Schmidt, Cece, and Robbie – agree to spend more time together.  As that arrangement careens towards an inevitable bad ending, Winston’s relationship with Shelby goes from stale to nonexistent. After their sexy costume plans fall flat (she opts for the confusing “reigning cats and dogs,” while he glues a fake moustache over his real moustache to become a cop), they break up in the haunted house’s morgue room, much to everyone’s relief (“I may not actually be Abraham Lincoln,” concludes Schmidt, “but I witnessed the emancipation of one black guy tonight – from a terrible relationship”). While the episode ties up a lot of loose ends, it also builds on this season’s big theme: Jess and Nick’s ability to help each other learn from their mistakes (even if it’s with cheesy analogies, like, “You know why I don’t like haunted houses? Because they’re just like relationships…”).

Ben and Kate: "Scaredy Kate"

BRADFORD: Six episodes in and Ben and Kate has already found a formula that seems to be working: giving Kate an emotional (but funny) A-story while Ben and Tom goof off in a low-stakes subplot. Kate's plotline involves a hot neighbor inviting her to a Halloween party, only for her to over-think things and have BJ give her advice on how to dress. It's been a while since Kate has been with a guy, and the storyline plays this for both laughs and pathos.

Meanwhile, in Ben and Tom's B-story, the best friends' Halloween plans of hitting on trick-or-treaters' mothers are called off when Tom accidentally eats a drug BJ brought back from Amsterdam, thinking it's candy. The resulting story, which takes Ben and Tom on a funny and weird drug trip, makes use of the characters' enjoyable rapport and natural chemistry. Some of the funniest moments in Ben and Kate so far have been Ben and Tom scenes (I'm thinking of their unsuccessful inventions from last week), and hopefully, we'll continue to see more of them together in the future.

The Mindy Project: "Halloween"

BRADFORD: After being bumped for the past two weeks for Fox's World Series coverage, The Mindy Project is back with a holiday episode that makes better use of its large ensemble cast than we've seen so far. Mindy Project has always had a large cast for a sitcom, running eight performers deep. While we've gotten to know Mindy, Springsteen-lovin' Danny Castellano, and charming Brit Jeremy pretty well over the first few episodes, the show has still struggled to find time to develop the rest of its supporting cast. Anna Camp's Gwen, Zoe Jarman's Betsy, and The Great Stephen Tobolowsky's Dr. Shulman (who's absent from this week's episode) are the ones who I'd like to see more of, where I feel like I have a handle on Jersey Girl Shauna and Ike Barinholtz's character Morgan. The Halloween episode gave big plotlines to Mindy, Danny, and Jeremy, whom we've already seen plenty of so far, but it still made for an entertaining half-hour that sees the new series continuing to develop and play to its strengths.

"Halloween" sees two of Mindy's love interests from previous episodes resurface: her ex Tom (Bill Hader), who she accidentally injures and then creeps out, and obnoxious sports attorney Josh (Tommy Dewey), who she met at a nightclub in the previous episode. Josh invites Mindy to a Halloween party, causing her to stress out over selecting the perfect costume, dragging the rest of her staff into her costume selection process. Meanwhile, Danny and Jeremy take their driver's license tests, something that Danny is nervous about doing so late in life, despite the fact that they live in New York and don't have much use for a driver's license anyway. Jeremy uses his British charm and a well-crafted lie to save Danny from having to fail his test one more time.

The Mindy Project will be taking another night off next week so that Fox can run X-Factor. It's not a great thing for a new show that's trying to build an audience for the network to be bumping it so frequently, but Mindy Project will be back the following week on November 13th and hopefully won't be bumped as much as the season continues.

Bradford Evans is Splitsider's Associate Editor.

Clay Sublett is a professional writer, an Emmy-winning actor, and a liar.

Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.

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  • Weevil

    Geoff Stults wasn't the hot neighbor who invited Kate to a Halloween party on Ben and Kate. The hot neighbor turned out to be a jerk. Geoff Stults was the guy giving out flashlights and who was calling the cops on the Hot Neighbor's party at the end. They bonded over being single parents, hating loud parties and him knowing her costume.

  • Rob

    So no Raising Hope recap on these? I love that show even though they promised a My Name is Earl movie last season, only to show he is dead this season (Earl J Hickey Memorial Nursing Home)