Valentine's Day is staring us in the face like the double barrels of a furious country bumpkin's shot gun, compelling us to do right by our sweetheart or be blasted to a million pieces. But before our significant other judges our romantic gestures and finds them wanting, or the world judges me for going to a Carl's Jr. all alone and eating a three-course burger dinner, let's take a moment to judge ABC's Wednesday comedy block! If you didn't catch last week's scrimmage edition of For the Winsday, we're basically going to assign each episode of ABC's Wednesday comedies with a 1-10 rating (one being unwatchable, 10 being so impossibly funny we have to be hospitalized for split sides), rank the episodes in order, average their ratings for an overall score, and declare the high score this week's winner! So get out the deeply discounted Christmas candy you found on the other side of the red and pink aisle at your local drug store, it's...
FOR THE WINSDAY!
Imaginative title! Perhaps the lack of effort was meant to mirror the zero amount of interest Mike and Frankie were willing to invest in their begrudging romantic night out (with friends!). While often delightful Sue Heck discovered french kissing with her new boyfriend (and discovered she hates it), Axl got his Paul Reubens-esque brother to pretend to be fatally ill for a school project. Considering that it's a mathematical certainty at least one regular viewer of The Middle actually has a child who is very ill, this was badly handled. If you're going to make jokes about a dying kid, they had better be damn funny, funny enough that they break people up into cathartic laughter, and this episode just didn't make any real jokes with this conceit. Also: Why they no let Julie Brown talk ? The woman gets paid to do punch-up for funnier shows than this, throw her some lines, P-Heats! Final question: How many cast members are wearing wigs, exactly? Is Axl wearing one? Do they put him in a wig so Patricia Heaton's hair doesn't stand out horribly when they all sit in tableau on the couch? Getting wig-paranoid with this show.
Final Score: 4.8
If the catalyst for moving out of New York was finding a box of condom's in Tessa's room, then how can George deal with finding another box of condoms in the idyllic suburbs of Chatswin? Not well, apparently, as we saw last night. George spent most of the episode grilling Tessa's friends over board games and ultimately confronting Tessa about her hot-as-jalapenos boyfriend, Scott. Heat be damned! Like the rest of this world, Scott is not good enough for Tessa, because he can not stop talking about his recent trip to volunteer in Zambia. Seriously, Tessa, maybe just shut up and listen to a couple travel stories. Jane Levy is a good actress, but Tessa is such a hateful and arrogant character; sometimes her personality is the bitter little fly in the ointment of this show. But on to the big news: Cheryl is leaving her husband! After a half-season of Dallas and George's innocent flirting, is Suburgatory setting the stage for a future relationship, marriage, and Dahlia and Tessa under one roof?! Or was the infidelity just an excuse for national treasure Cheryl Hines to yell about the incriminating panties she found being too big? I don't know what was funnier, her reaction to the "M/L panties" or the shots of her working it in the gym with a Kangol cap angled like a ho-hat. Either way, Cheryl Hines is a winner every day of the week.
Final Score: 7
Between Gloria and Cameron's silent struggle and eventual harmony in the kitchen and the solid-gold reaction expressions by Claire, this episode was a ballet of physical comedy. Guest-star Greg Kinnear earned points for the episode with a series of kisses that spanned what looked like three generations of extras, smooching not just Claire full on the lips but a grandmotherly housekeeper, teen daughter, and elementary-school-aged son. I really hope he becomes a recurring character for the next few episodes, and that they keep these kisses flowing. Manny provided one of the highlights this week, when he gently counseled both Gloria and Cameron, and there was a Big Sister plot that got a little lost and muddled but ultimately ended up with Luke transformed into Betty Luke. Still, "Me? Jealous?" is in a competition not so much with the rest of the block but with the high expectations its created for itself, and I kind of missed the Valentine's Day theme from last year.
Final Score: 6.9
One thing I love about this show is that it doesn't assume laughter. There are no pauses between the quips, awesome throwaway lines, and banter, and while that means sometimes backing up my DVR to catch what I have laughed over, I relish the constant forward momentum; Happy Endings bounds from scene to scene like a giant, hilarious puppy. There was some impressive physical comedy this week, courtesy Brad, who provided one of the sharpest laughs of the episode when he had to lick his own chocolate-fondue-covered watch to read the time. Verbally, Alex's frantic recounting of St. Valentine Valentinius was a delightful running joke that neatly buttoned up the episode by explaining the grisly backstory for why the heart is the symbol of Valentine's day. Also delightful was a reference to JFK calling Jane's grandmother "a perfect Chicago whore," the passing reference to Five-Hour Energy as "Five-O," and the giant pizza Max presumably spend last Valentine's day with. The gang pooled their resources to help Max win back a handsome gentleman (beautiful guest-star James Wolk) that eating that giant pizza lost, and while the episode does lose points for using the old "300 small candles lit in under 45 minutes" television trope, it gains points for being the only show on the block that gave us a moment of unabashed romance.
Final Score: 7.1
1. Happy Endings with 7.1 FOR THE WIN!!!
2. Suburgatory with 7
3. Modern Family with 6.9
4. The Middle with 4.8
This Week's Block Average: 6.5
Despite a painful backslide by The Middle, Suburgatory came through with a huge plot development and Happy Endings with, well, a happy ending to push the block ever closer to that semi-precious stone that is a 7.
– How many wigs on The Middle?
– George and Dallas: inevitable or never going to happen?
– Tessa: relentlessly negative or you love her sardonic teen flavah?
– If Modern Family had thrown in a little Valentine's Day acknowledgement, would it have been an unstoppable FTW force?
– What were your rankings for the week? (And keep in mind we are using the 1-10 scale with the same kind of preciousness as Olympic judges)