Splitsider

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

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

After taking last week off for that whole election thing, your Tuesday night comedies are back, with Happy Endings, New Girl, Ben and Kate, and The Mindy Project all airing new episodes last night to ease your mind into three-and-a-half years of not caring about politics. Next week, most of the Tuesday shows will be tackling Thanksgiving, which has traditionally made for better sitcom fodder than most holidays, but this week, we get just a regular ol' bunch of episodes. That is, if you consider bar mitzvah hype guys, using your co-worker as a gynecologist, impromptu nighttime barbecues, male PMS, consensual sexual harassment, and door-to-door wine salesmen to make for normal sitcom episodes because these are all topics that got touched on last night. Let's dive in to last night's new comedies!

Happy Endings – "Boyz II Menorah"
CLAY: "Boyz II Menorah" is the type of episode that has both rapid fire jokes and an emotional storyline. The episode begins by revealing that Max has gotten a new job: Bar Mitzvah hype guy. We then learn that Dave and Alex's relationship has reached a plateau and also an unusual level of grossness. straying from the norm, we get only two storylines this time.

After Max's performance, Penny suggests that Brad join him as a Bar Mitzvah hype team and Max grudgingly accepts. Eventually, Brad outshines Max and is invited to perform solo at another Bar Mitzvah. When Max finds out, he shows up uninvited and he and Brad compete in a "hype-off." Meanwhile, Alex tries without success to bring some spark into her relationship with Dave. Jane ends up helping Dave surprise Alex with a Paris-themed dinner, but makes the plane ticket invitation a little too realistic for Alex. The "run to the airport" ends with all three handcuffed on the sidewalk, where Dave and Alex agree they can still be interesting. The episode ends with a must-watch performance by Boyz II Menorah telling us how they get hyped.

Some of the best quotes:

Jane: "You fools! Your taser only make me stronger!"
Dave: "Maybe Alex's store was really busy" bursts into laughter "just imagine her store being really busy, just try! You can't"
Alex: "Wait, don't go! I also brought the pottery wheel from Ghost!"
Brad: "Now I got just one commandment for y'all: Thou shalt not STOP DANCING!"
Max: "Join me in welcoming: He entered a boy, but will be leaving a – entered a boy doesn't sound great"
Penny: "I know this seems pretty awful, but when you consider all the things your people have been through, it's really not that bad."

 

New Girl - "Menzies"
SAM: It's that time of the month around the apartment. Sure, Jess has her period and is using PMS as an excuse to mask her general, jobless ennui; but so is Winston (we'll explain). While half of the household is sidelined on the couch with snacks and heating pads, Nick embarks on an unexpected (and weirdly creepy) journey of self-discovery, and, to nobody's surprise, Schmidt and Cece's newfound friendship hits its first make out-related obstacle. The mass meltdown begins when Jess attempts to barter library cards and fortune cookie wisdom for utilities; Schmidt, eager to teach a lesson, shuts off the gas to force her into getting a real job. When she's not too psyched on that option (threatening to neuter them all if they keep nagging her about it), some tough love from Nick does the trick (“Yeah, I called you a ninny, because you’re acting like a ninny, ninny!") But, wouldn't you know it, PMS just ruins everything, and she ends up weeping at a photo of a puppy in a teacup instead of acing her job interview. While she's melting down, Nick meets a new friend in the park, an old Chinese man whose smiling silence prompts Nick to spill all his secrets and conclude he has a serious anger problem. Vowing to be more Zen, Nick asks the old man to teach him the way; it turns out, Nick just needed someone to cradle him, nearly nude, in a small pool while an overweight woman plays the recorder. Schmidt, on the other hand, needs something a little more adventurous, like a steamy flirtation with his boss, but he gets more than he expected; after he spills the details on his new hookup to 'pals' Cece and Robby, the exes end up kissing (although Cece, initially pissed at being labeled 'a nice girl,' can't go through with it out of guilt).

Meanwhile, Winston's feeling a little weird, and confides to Schmidt that he thinks he has sympathy PMS. “He’s like a character in a Judy Blume novel!" Schmidt exclaims, as Winston and Jess spiral into a murky pit of emotional despair. When Nick returns from his aqua therapy (bellowing “All the anger that used to be inside me is gone!”) and sees them scowling on the couch, he tries to quiet Jess's complaints about her day… with a little aqua therapy. After some awkward grappling, they try talking instead, and Nick drops anger-free truth bomb: "It's not PMS," he admonishes Jess for using her period as an excuse for all her problems. In one of their loving BFF moments, he tells her to stop doubting herself; she runs with the advice, re-does her bombed interview, and ends up with a job (a REAL one this time: teaching creative writing to adults). Schmidt gets his own happy ending, even though his boss makes him sign a contract with pages full of relationship-related stipulations (including “guaranteed mercury poisoning”), but Winston – presumably using PMS to mask his post-breakup sadness – still needs some help to get back on his feet. Cut to: even more aquatic adventures. Do we sense a new sideline gig for Nick?

The Mindy Project - "Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist"
BRADFORD: It feels late in the season for The Mindy Project to only be airing its fifth episode, but after a series of pre-emptions mostly due to Fox Baseball coverage, the show's still airing its early episodes. "Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist," which was written by Mindy Kaling, involves Mindy (unwisely) selecting her will-they-or-won't-they officemate Danny Castellano as her new gynecologist, even though both of them are dreading it. Elsewhere, Jeremy tricks Betsy and Morgan into breaking into Mindy's apartment with him so that he can get his watch back. It's an episode that sees the supporting cast get fleshed out a little more, which pays off great.

Some of the best sitcoms going, like Parks and Rec and Community, weren't firing on all cylinders immediately with their pilot episodes, and The Mindy Project has that in common with both of those shows. The key to the writers finding the voice for those two critically-acclaimed NBC series is that they started pairing up different supporting cast members and seeing how they play off one another. The Mindy Project hasn't had much opportunity to do this yet, thanks partly to some big-name guest stars (Ed Helms, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers) eating up a lot of screentime in early episodes and taking the focus of the ensemble. In this episode, however, which doesn't feature any major guest actors, we get to spend a lot more time with the supporting cast and to see what their relationships are like with one another. The Jeremy/Betsy/Morgan B-story works well and brings a much-needed fleshing-out of this trio of characters. Ike Barinholtz has emerged as the standout amongst the cast, with his ex-con male nurse Morgan Tookers having become one of the show's most dependably funny characters. And where is Stephen Tobolowsky? Despite being part of the regular cast, Tobolowsky has been MIA lately and has only appeared in two of The Mindy Project's five episodes. Hopefully, future episodes see the supporting cast continuing to get time to shine and Tobolowsky resurfacing.

Ben and Kate - "Career Day"
BRADFORD: When Ben finds out there's a career day at Maddie's school, he goes on a last-minute quest to find himself a career so that he can speak to her class. After going through a list of careers he and Tommy plan on one day pursuing, Ben lands at "local wine merchant" and starts selling wine door-to-door. As if one zany scheme isn't enough for one week of Ben's life, he also set up his sister Kate with attractive neighbor Will (Geoff Stults) by arranging an impromptu nighttime barbecue. Will and Kate end up going on an actual date, which Ben unintentionally sabotages by intensely pressuring Will to treat his sister nicely, but things manage to work out in the end.

It's nice to see Ben and Tommy returning to their long list of get-rich-quick schemes and high-minded business ideas at the top of the episode. The subject provided a lot of laughs the first time it came up on the show in "Emergency Kit." While both the A and B stories provide plenty of laughs this week, BJ's C-story is less effective – perhaps because it doesn't get as much time to develop as the episode's bigger plots. BJ spends the episode fretting over the wait staff at the bar not liking her but finds it's only because she hasn't bothered to learn any of their names. Seven episodes into Ben and Kate's run, it feels like the family dynamic between the five main characters – who are a mix of family and friends – works much better than the workplace stuff, which hasn't been fleshed out as much as the home stuff. Still, "Career Day" works on a lot of levels and gives the cast, particularly Nat Faxon's Ben, plenty of time to shine.

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.