Comedy is like seafood, best when it's freshest and served at its most sizzling. But some comedies are grade-A lobsters and some of them are clearly stolen from that koi pond in the abandoned business park, and they're still kind of flopping around on your plate, cold and naked, as their beady eyes reflect back at you in bewildered protest. So get out your judgin' notepads and your hot butter, landlubbers, because it's time to sort through Wednesday's ABC comedy-block catch in...
FOR THE WINSDAY!!!
The Middle S3E18: "Leap Year"
This episode opened a window in the dark chamber of Mike and Frankie's stagnating marriage, and that window faced out onto the dark brick wall of Mike's alienation. He's cared for a cat at his work for six years? That he's never told anyone about? And it died in his arms? As far as The Middle goes, that's actually kind of edgy, and I thought it was one of the show's stronger conceits. Mike was profoundly detached from Frankie, present beside her yet clearly disconnected, kind of like her head and her wig. Is the next season going to deal with their divorce? Sue crying herself to sleep and then getting woken up by the family's makeshift birthday party at 4am was another hilarious bit mined from a truly pathetic and sad moment. Eden's joyful reaction to her shabby birthday cake was absolutely amazing and touching. So yeah, weirdly tragic humor this week, but oddly enough, it worked.
Final Score: 6
Suburgatory: "Poetic Injustice"
Jackie Geary might have to be arrested for attempted murder because she was KILLING ME as the hip poetry teacher. Tessa's desperation to impress her both fit with Tessa's character and with that age. I think many of us had that one teacher you almost kind of crushed on. Dahlia's poem "Cars" was incredible, as were her exchanges with Tessa in the classroom and at home. Suburgatory has been fearless about weird physical humor since its pilot, and George's tongue slaps with Ana Gasteyer were pure Tim & Eric (even if they were embedded in a dream sequence). Another visual stunner: Chris Parnell's facial hair accumulating throughout the episode. Dallas and George are now croquet partners (eyebrow wiggle!) and I thought it was a graceful parallel that after Tessa exploited her mom abandoning her to write an impressive poem, the show highlighted that she was fighting for the approval of an alienating mother figure. Seriously well done, Suburgs.
Final Score: 7.35
Modern Family S3E17: "Leap Day"
The Cam and Mitchell storyline had lots of truly hard laughs: The Wizard of Oz extras arriving while Mitchell was trying to distract Cam, the flashback to four years earlier when Cam had a crazy mustache, and Mitchell's desperate dance alongside the car—full of the same visual humor, restrained realism, and hilarity Modern Family is known for. But the rest of the show was garbage. I'm sorry! I love this show! But PMS humor? Three women getting their periods on the same day is "Satan's trifecta"? Gloria wants her man to have a fistfight in a bar? Sure, awesome. Glad the Work It writers are still getting punch-up jobs. Also, two shows on the block both had leap year birthdays? The Middle aired first, so Modern Family gets the point deduction for repetition there.
Final Score: 5.9
Happy Endings S2E16: "Cocktails & Dreams"
This episode knocked it out of the park. It had me at "whore's bath" (Penny rubbing dryer sheets on her armpits in the bathroom of an Au Bon Pain) and then the cleanse humor and Penny hiding food on her ceiling fan and then having it rain down when the fan was turned on, and then an entourage guy named Beans?? This barbecue taste GOOD, Happy Endings! Elisha Cuthbert had some huge hard laughs (table keg!) and Max holding his horses was visually delightful, and Damon Wayans Jr. screaming "Bitch it's 5:30!" They're all winners, but Casey Wilson was the MVP last night. And what do we all think about Alex and Dave hooking up? Just a potent combination of that drama on top of many throwaway jokes (Kardashian book everywhere!) and really great visual humor (Penny almost throwing herself off a balcony during the cleanse). A very strong episode in a very strong season.
Final Score: 7.4
Happy Endings: 7.4
The Middle: 6
Modern Family: 5.9
Overall Score: 6.6
Congrats, Happy Endings, on reclaiming the throne (for now) from Suburgatory. The Middle made big gains with its dark humor this week, and Modern Family has nowhere to go but up. We are living in a golden age of ABC comedy guys, and frankly last night's steamy bouillabaisse made me happy as a clam. Because seafood. We mermaid it! Okay that was too far. (Don't eat mermaids.)
Thanks to everyone who voted for last week's viewers' choice! The Viewers' Blue Ribbon Win votes are in for last week's ABC comedy block...
1. Suburgatory swept first place with 7.5!
2. You gave Happy Endings a 6.9.
3. Modern Family was right behind with a 6.8.
4. And The Middle averaged 6.3.
Remember to score three or more shows in the comments I'll tally for next week's Blue Ribbon Viewers' Choice. See you next... FOR THE WINSDAY!