The Mindy Project was one of the most exciting shows to watch this TV season, in an odd way. Each week, it seemed like you never knew what show you would get. Would it be the madcap meta-rom-com of the pilot, that leaned heavily on creator and star Mindy Kaling's persona? Would it be the more ensemble-driven, group outing episodes of the early season? Would it go for something heartfelt? Also, who would be in the cast?
Not that I know how producing a TV show works, but it was at least exciting to puzzle through The Mindy Project's weird revolving-door supporting cast this year. MADtv's Ike Barinholtz was introduced as a recurring character in the second episode, eventually joining the main cast. Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Rierson from Groundhog Day) was seemingly perfectly cast as Mindy's boss, but disappeared after 2 episodes, abruptly written out. Amanda Setton's receptionist character disappeared when the show retooled halfway through, Anna Camp played Mindy's best friend until she didn't anymore, and Xosha Roquemore joined the show with four episodes left in the season. Finally, veteran comic actress Beth Grant's character was fired in the second episode, randomly reappeared later in the year, and THEN got re-hired in a subsequent episode (owing to FOX airing the episodes out of order). READ MORE
The best phrase to describe Happy Endings, which wrapped up its third season on Friday night, is "live-action cartoon." Not only does that sum-up the overall consequence-free, wonderfully-detached shenanigans its characters get up to, it also describes the shows resilience, somehow making it to three seasons and 57 episodes despite ABC constantly shuffling it around the schedule and airing it in hour chunks to burn it off every year. Here's hoping it can survive the latest Friday-night-shaped anvil thrown its way and get renewed again.
The primary appeal of Happy Endings is the chemistry between its cast, the rapid-fire dialogue, and the very lack of emphasis on plot or emotional stakes that can make the shape of the season a little hard to remember. When season three started Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) was unemployed, I think? Or he was pretending not to be unemployed? The important part is that for a few episodes he worked at a kids play-center run by a deranged David Alan Grier, and it was hilarious. I can't remember what his wife Jane (the acutely-sharp Eliza Coupe) did for a living before taking a job selling used cars under Rob Coreddry either, but again – not the point. Everyone's primary occupation is hanging out with one another and being funny. READ MORE
Sitcoms aren't supposed to make us think about change. They're supposed to establish stasis, to remind of us of normalcy- the same bar, the same group of friends, the same stakes. Maybe two of the characters date, then they break up. They lose jobs, they get new ones, the dynamic stays pretty level.
Parks and Recreation, which wrapped up its stellar fifth season last night, somehow manages to feel familiar every year, while consistently expanding the inner and outer lives of its characters, changing the group dynamics but strengthening them at the same time. It's basically the Mad Men of sitcoms. The characters stay largely consistent (or change in ways that feel true-to-life), but each season carries with it the weight of the previous ones, and as the characters grow, they seem complex in ways that make the emotional stakes higher and the payoffs more satisfying. READ MORE
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Archer is a sitcom. It's visually distinct, endearingly profane, and cartoonishly violent, but at heart it's basically The Office — with all of the romantic tension, misplaced egotism, and work-related incompetence that comparison implies.
The fourth season, which wrapped up with last night's finale, ostensibly was as globe-hopping and dynamic as the previous three, but the writers seemed to fall back on established habits more often than not this year. Multiple episodes featured H. Jon Benjamin's arrogant title character goofing around while Lana (Aisha Tyler) tried to stick to the mission, Lana and Cyril (Chris Parnell) were dating again for a while, multiple missions turned out to be self-serving hoaxes by head honcho Malory Archer (Jessica Walter), and so on. Multiple episodes feature Archer surviving impossibly fatal wounds/maladies, a trick I feel like would bother me less in a straightforward spy show where the stakes require caring if people get hurt. READ MORE
Archer is the best workplace sitcom on television. I suppose it's a decent spy-parody, too.
The FX animated show, pitched as "James Bond meets Arrested Development" by creator Adam Reed, enters its fourth season tonight, looking for new places to go after the third season began with a three-part pirate adventure, detoured to missions around the globe, and closed with a two-part mission in space reminiscent of James Bond in Moonraker. But all of the spy-aesthetics are secondary to the running jokes and squabbling character dynamics that make the show much more Arrested Development in nature (not to mention Jessica Walter's warped maternal dynamic with H. Jon Benjamin's titular character).
As much fun as all of the derring-do and international intrigue can be (and Archer exists in an undefined, nefarious point in time when the USSR is still a thing and Castro is still alive, so it can hit all of the standard espionage-plot highlights), I love Archer because the writers keep coming up with new ways to make references to Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone," and they've given us all a not-played-out alternative to "that's what she said" in the eloquent "phrasing." READ MORE