Episode 8 – “Bed Bugs”
‘Bed Bugs’, the eighth episode, does not seem to have gone down too well with professional critics. From a brief glance, the AV Club gave it a C-, Paste Magazine’s Aaron Channon said it was “not the worst episode of the series’ first season…but its also probably something nobody would watch willingly if not for inertia or die-hard fandom”. Yikes. Maybe Chris Christie will regret agreeing to appear in such a car crash. But I don’t think it was a bad as all that. True, its not a classic. The thought of a bug-infested apartment does not exactly have me excitedly pressing the play button. But at least they are willing to take risks, pretty rare for such a traditional sitcom.
The main storylines settles around Leigh disrupting the normal family life as her apartment has become infested with troublesome little bugs and she comes to the Henry house for an unspecified amount of time (preferably short). Crowded houses and extra family members moving in are very popular grounds for a sitcom, most recently the short-lived How to Live With Your Parents With The Rest Of Your Life took the longform of this scenario. Leigh is round the house so often that her presence was not unnatural, but her particular quirks are a nightmare for the family. She soon requests a loan (or a gift) of money to upgrade her couch because “while it may be cute to have a raccoon couch in your twenties, I am dipping my foot into my thirties”. She is also hit by the news that her literary agent is leaving the industry to become a dental hygienist: “He’d rather look at the insides of people’ss mouths than my writing. That’s a quote”.
Mike refuses to give into her full demands to pay extra for upholstering of a new couch, but later regrets this as she takes on the persona of the bedbugs, namely sticking around for longer in a place she is not wanted. In other storylines, Mike’s return to work hits a new low as, instead of his wish to “come out of retirement to interview people like Desmond Tutu” he has to interview a cat because, as Harris tells him, the internet has spoken”. Graham is not getting as much screentime as I would like him to, given the comical impression he gave in the opening couple of episodes. He does have one memorable scene though, telling Mike that the reason for him walking around the house naked (his modesty protected by the usual blurred image on the screen) is because “I saw Aunt Leigh drinking orange juice in the kitchen naked”. Eve and Ian have a sideplot concerning payback for a prank Ian played on her at school, but as he is stood up for a business meeting, Eve doesn’t follow through with humiliating him. He gets a job at the end of the episode, and hands over a check for rent money. All’s well in Ian’s world.
Observations and best quotes
- Mike’s To-Do List – BUY A NEW UMBRELLA
- Leigh: “You’re wearing ankle weights? What kind of stuff are you guys into?” Mike is exercising and Leigh walks in at the wrong moment.
- Eve to Ian: “Want an omelette?” Ian: “You probably put your butt on them. And since I’m not partial to butt omelette, I’ll pass”
- Did not note the color of Annie’s clothes this week. Hope my Breaking Bad addictiveness is not slipping.
- The nice closing scene stayed the right side of soppy. “They’re with you your whole life and even though you think you know them, they still surprise you”.
Episode 9 – “Homecoming”
Bringing things up to date, here is my take on episode 9, entitled “Homecoming”. The theme was about both the Henry adults letting their kids grow up, but also knowing if things were moving too rapidly. Despite Ian’s business position at Today’s Man (“If there’s one thing I’ve learnt at work, it’s that today’s man dresses for the job he wants tomorrow, today), Mike was concerned that him stalling on his education would hold in back further up the line and tries to convince him to give college another ago, while at the same time, Eve and Ian have got the homecoming dance (“a rite of passage that you’ve been through two times” in the latter’s case).
I do think this show is getting a bit of a hard rap, its an enjoyable family sitcom for a broad audience, and there are not enough of those on at the moment. Community, Louie even New Girl to an extent etc. are all fantastic, but in a way their qualities do not lend themselves to a mass group – you sort of have to ‘get’ them to be drawn in by the humour, the plot, everything. The Michael J. Fox Show is different. It is traditional, and unashamedly so, but that is not always negative. Sit down for 20 minutes with characters who are becoming familiar, laugh without having to strain over a complex reference and be entertained: isn’t that what comedy’s about?
Graham is more prominent, as Mike and Annie start handing on boxes of old toys and possession that he no longer uses, which they don’t think he will notice. Not known for being quiet and undemanding, Graham plays his parents at their own game, taking blenders, toasters and mugs which in the piece to camera he asserts “I’ve never seen them use it”. Graham 1-1 Parents. If the scoring continued it would be 3-1 to Graham as he takes some of his items outside to donate, and Annie concedes defeat in winning back her ‘aspiration jeans’ for when her juice cleanse is done when he picks up a juicer. Foiled.
Mike takes Ian on a roadtrip under the presumption that he is being driven to New Jersey to pick up a not entirely inflammable suit Ian has ordered for Homecoming. But Mike’s real intention is to take a varied route to Cornell University to at least show Ian a slice of what he is missing (“girls who haven’t just turned 18″ for one). On the trip there are several moving scenes where both Mike and Ian confront the impact of Parkinsons on their individual lives. When they hit a deer, they get out of the car in the middle of the forest and Ian accuses him of being “optimistic about everything in the world but me. It sucks that you got Parkinson’s…But this whole inspiring journey that you went on, that’s my childhood”. Although the story is fictional, Fox himself is likely to have faced similar conversations with friends and loved ones during his battles with the condition, and this makes it even more poignant. Mike later tells Ian that “You’re a lot tougher than a kid. Maybe I didn’t notice what you went through because you handled it so well”. He decides that Ian needs to take his own path in life, and if that is college or not, all well and good.
At home, Annie puts on an impromptu girls night with Eve, who she worries has become distant, expressing her feelings in the routine teenage language of grunts and mumbles. To Eve’s initial disinterest, she puts on movies and chats about her life, doing everything besides braiding each other’s hair. Leigh joins the twosome (not in that way) for a dance party, or as it turns out, a brief duet to the 90s classic Rhythm is a Dancer – Annie attempts to bely her advancing years by performing the worm, but her chants of “worm, worm, worm” turn to squeals when she collapses in a heap. Eve and Leigh share a double bed, and Annie bunks on the floor (her choice), but Eve abandons early in what Leigh calls “a solid one-night-stand sneak out. That girl’s going to break a lot of hearts and avoid a lot of awkward brunches”. The episode culminates in Annie and Mike reuniting as chaperones at the dance, with Ian dancing with his belle Reese (who isn’t with “Hot Kevin who doesn’t even know how hot he is” as Ian had feared would happen). “Are chaperones allowed to dance” says Mike. “Yes, but don’t be offended if I don’t move much” says Annie. “Don’t be offended if I do” is Mike’s response.
The season so far has seen episodes of varying quality, but one thing is clear. The Michael J Fox Show has a lot going for it as a family comedy. However it needs to audience to know it’s there and not be put off by any wobbles. Shows can’t be great every week, but MJ Fox is getting there. I’m optimistic.
Observations and best quotes
- Clearout time – “a lot of memories and a lot of germs”
- Lots of purple on Annie. Order restored.
- Ian: “You expect a certain level of service when you’re renting a stretch Hummer. They tried to rent me a party van. I’m not taking Reese to Homecoming in that”
- Back to the Future reference from Mike when they hit a deer: “We changed the future”. Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who got a teensy bit excited. Anyone.
- “Did you know that flammable means the same thing as flammable” “You rented a suit that catches on fire” “Don’t be stupid Dad, I bought it”.
- In other news, David Foster Wallace is a smashing read. Literally.
Danny Matcham – @boymetworld91