There are a lot of great dramas on at the moment — True Detective just wrapped its fourth season, a creatively revitalized The Walking Dead, the fantastic Deadly Class, and TNT’s miniseries I Am the Night (which ends on Monday) — but at the moment, half-hour comedies are delivering many of the best episodes on TV, whether it’s Sex Education on Netflix, Pen15 on Hulu, the final season of You’re the Worst, or the masterful Russian Doll.
We’ve written about many of those shows at length, but there are three half-hour comedies that still warrant discussion, even if they are too far along for “reviews” and don’t always lend themselves to next-day think pieces. Chief among them is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which was renewed by NBC this week for a seventh season. It is, of course, consistently excellent, and yet may have managed to find yet another gear in its sixth season, particularly with last night’s Me Too episode, “He Said, She Said.” The episode, written by Lang Fisher and directed by Stephanie Beatriz, was pitch perfect, striking the perfect balance between a serious issue and the need to be a comedy. It was funny (broken penis!) without being dismissive, but also unflinchingly honest.
Briga Heelan plays an employee at a financial firm who broke a dude’s penis for trying to hit on her. After the company offers her a $2.5 million settlement to make the case go away, the employee — encouraged by Amy — decides to reject the offer and seek criminal penalties. It works! Sort of. They get the guy after another co-worker named Beefer blows the whistle on the broken-penis dude — not out of justice but to get his job — but Briga Heelan’s character, out the $2.5 million settlement, still has to quit her job because she understands that no one in that company will ever treat her fairly again. “The whole atmosphere has changed. Everyone looks at me like I’m either a victim or a traitor,” which means not getting invited to the dinners and parties, which means “I’m not looked at for new accounts or promotions. Or anything.” In other words, women in the workplace are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t, and the only solace they can take is in inspiring other women to speak out and hopefully, one broken penis at a time, change the culture by sacrificing themselves to the greater good, which is obviously no fucking fair. The guy with the broken penis goes to jail, the woman who broke it loses her job, and the only people who benefit are the Beefers of the world. (It’s a funny episode in the moment, but not very funny if you think about it for three seconds).
Meanwhile, Better Things also returned last night without the involvement of the guy with the metaphorical broken penis, Louis C.K., and guess what? It’s better than it ever was, and that’s saying a lot. The premiere again strikes the perfect balance between humor and pathos, as it sees Sam dropping her oldest daughter, Max, off at college. On the one hand, as a parent — especially a single mother — Sam feels this immense sense of accomplishment. Her daughter is in college. She did it! On the other hand, those feelings are bittersweet, because it means giving her daughter up to the bigger world. It means letting go. It means taking her daughter out one last time only to have her taken away by her new college friends, and she obviously wants to be happy about that — she’s already made new friends! — but also there go those last few minutes together. It must be what it feels like to have a heart filled with so much joy being stomped on at the same time.
Alas, life doesn’t end with one daughter going to college. After a terrifying flight, Sam goes home, where she still has two other daughters, and she has to step right back into the life of a Mom, reading Raisin in the Sun to her daughter because Frankie can’t bring herself to pay attention. It’s an absolutely phenomenal return, and also, fuck you, Louis C.K.
Finally, there is Andrea Savage’s I’m Sorry, which is my favorite thing on television at the moment, the show I wait until after everyone else has gone to sleep to watch. I turn off the phone and I mute Slack notifications, so nothing can interrupt me for a glorious 25 minutes spent with Andrea Savage and Tom Everett Scott in what has to be the best marriage on television right now. Based on Savage’s own life as a filthy comedian raising a first grader while married to a more mild-mannered accountant type (I have no idea what Mike actually does for a living), I’m Sorry may be the most relatable sitcom on television despite its obviously absurd flourishes. There have only been 18 episodes of the show, so far, but I can’t count the number of shared experiences, and I daresay that no one has mined the comedy in the banality of parenting and marriage better than Savage. It’s a phenomenally funny television show and regularly the most enjoyable half hour of my week, even if I don’t have anything particularly noteworthy to say about the individual episodes (and if you don’t have TruTV, the first season is on Netflix, and the second season will arrive soon after its run ends on TruTV).
Header Image Source: NBC