Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: You’re the Worst and The Muppets!
Joe Stando is watching…
You’re the Worst
Season 2, Episode 9, “LCD Soundsystem”
Wednesdays at 10:00 PM on FXX
What’s the word for a joke that (by design) makes you cry instead of laugh? You’re the Worst has been broaching some pretty dramatic territory these past few weeks, but “LCD Soundsystem” is in a class of its own. In a structure that’s honestly daring for a half-hour show, it devoted the first act to Lexi and Rob, two new characters who seem to be able to have it all. They’re built up as ideals to the audience and to Gretchen, who’s been stalking them with increasing desperation. When Gretchen holds their baby for the nanny and is met with a look of suspicion and distrust, I figured it might be foreshadowing the ending, when she would be outed to her idols as an obsessive who kidnapped their dog.
Instead, the climax is much worse: Rob is revealed to be a sad creep who is unhappy with everything Gretchen longs for. He’s not a monster, he’s just lonely and unhappy, but for Gretchen, that’s just as bad. Her crying silently as Jimmy blabs on while they walk home is easily the roughest the show has gotten so far, and I’m afraid things are going to get much worse.
Episode Highlight: Tara Summers and Justin Kirk do a lot of the heavy lifting here, since they have to sell us on some detailed, complex, believable characters that we haven’t seen before and likely won’t see again. They’re more than up to the task, and it’s not hard to imagine the You’re the Worst-style TV series that could exist about their past up to that point. But the clear highlight of the episode (and the season, and probably the show) is Aya Cash as Gretchen. The writers have taken the character to some dark places, and Cash has sold every bit of it. Gretchen’s behavior in this episode (stalking, stealing a dog, awkwardly parroting the lives of someone else to people she meets) is unhealthy and unsettling, but Cash brings the vulnerability and humanity it needs. It’s a portrayal of clinical depression that I didn’t expect to see outside of HBO, and as hard as it is to watch sometimes, I’m grateful for it.
Dylan Roth is Watching…
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Ex-Factor”
Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC
Since The Muppets’ lackluster return to the small screen in September, I’ve been rooting pretty hard for their new sitcom to hit its stride. And while I can’t say that The Muppets has reached must-see status, I can confirm that there has been some improvement. The show’s got a lot going for it—built-in beloved characters, a fun concept, a never-ending parade of well-known celebrities dying to make a guest appearance—but rarely manages to make the most of any of them. “The Ex-Factor” isn’t the strongest episode so far (that prize goes hands-down to “Hostile Makeover” with Josh Groban and Laurence Fishburne), but it does capitalize well on one of the show’s built-in concepts (Kermit and Piggy are broken up), and on its guest star, Kristin Chenoweth.
The episode’s A-story puts Kermit in the incredibly awkward position of asking ex-girlfriend Piggy for advice on what to get his new gal Denise for her birthday. The situation is even more awkward for Piggy, having been the dumpee, but she’s able to handle the situation with her famous flair for the passive-aggressive, simultaneously solving Kermit’s problem for him and also punishing him for the imposition. The new dynamic between Piggy and Kermit—that of work friends trying to play it cool despite their decades of baggage—has been rewarding just about every time the show goes to that well, and this may be the best example.
A Broadway star well accustomed to broad comedy, Chenoweth is practically a Muppet herself, and is incredibly game to goof around with both Miss Piggy and The Electric Mayhem in this episode. Having a strong human presence to bounce off of always brings out the best in the Muppets in general, and this seems especially true in the sitcom setting—The Muppets are each essentially one-joke characters and aren’t meant to develop much week to week, so the quality of the guest foil often makes or breaks a story. Chenoweth scores big points by basically winding up Dr. Teeth, Janice, and Floyd and letting them go, and by taking most of the punches herself.
Episode Highlight: While Kermit and Piggy always get their fair share of screen time on The Muppets, I’m continuing to enjoy the way the writers have developed some of the B- and C-level Muppets into a great ensemble. Scooter, Pepe the Prawn, and rats Yolanda and Rizzo have never been used better, but the real dark horse fave of The Muppets is Uncle Deadly (Matt Vogel), the ghoulish gargoyle who’s been around since the 70s but came to prominence as one of Chris Cooper’s goons in 2011’s The Muppets. Deadly is now in charge of wardrobe on Up Late with Miss Piggy, and typically gets one scene-stealing gag per episode. He’s my current favorite character on the show and I hope he continues to get exactly the same amount of screentime he’s been getting.