In its fifth episode, “Trophy Wife” continues to be consistently funny and amusing, its almost unwavering formula of a serviceable, albeit familiar, A-story supported by a sillier B-story is quite effective. In “The Tryst” Peter and Kate are coerced by Diane to attend an 80s themed fund raiser and Warren and Hilary help Jackie with her online dating video. As it has come to be with the series, I fully enjoyed the smaller and more ridiculous B-story while had some reservations with the more prominent storyline.
Again the show employs sitcom clichés to structure the episode, the whole getting locked in an enclosed space and therefore forced to confront each other with the frustrations of their relationship in order to emerge as a stronger more enlightened duo scenario has been done countless times and is not exactly the most innovative idea. Still, “Trophy Wife” is able to get away with employing such hackneyed storylines because they have a wealth of strong performances to support them, and the writers also manage to inject odd details here and there that add an unexpected quality to the overall product. So while Kate and Pete are trapped in the high school closet, we are treated to the hilarious Phyllis Smith as the very nervous and awkward Mrs. Steinberg. Also I believe that Pete and Kate’s storyline is well resolved and really enjoyed their mini dino-nuggets and whiskey feast. It was appropriately humorous, especially with Jackie’s brief interruption, but actually cute in a semi-romantic kind of way.
In the episode’s other storyline, Warren and Hilary encounter Jackie’s incredibly ridiculous online dating video and attempt to help her appear like a semi-normal person on her profile, no easy feat. I am prone to enjoying over-the-top, cartoonish characters (I generally relished in the outlandish shenanigans of Tracy and Jenna over on “30 Rock” and always welcome the absurdity that is Jean Ralphio in “Parks and Recreation”) so Jackie has become one of my favorite sources of comedy on the show. And though the character could easily devolve into an exaggerated caricature that could distract from the show’s realism, the writers have managed to ground her without transforming her into a bland lifeless character. By exploring Jackie’s relationship with Bert, which is incredibly sweet and loving and fun to watch, the writers humanize her and make her a more relatable character. For the third week in a row the writers have relied on this pair to bring on the laughs and they managed it wonderfully. The many eccentricities explored in those dating video excerpts were absolutely genius, from her fabulous outfit choice (which totally made her look like a Women & Women First employee) to her very diverse interests (yoga, tuvan throat singers, green tea enemas, and Nascar, of course) and what was surely a beautiful rendition of “No, That’s Not My Elephant”. I could have watched an entire episode of just Jackie’s insane online dating video. Michaela Watkins totally stole the show for me this week and almost made me wish that the show centered on Jackie and Bert instead, their work together was charming without being cloyingly sweet, strengthened my a hilariously unanticipated Christopher Walken impression. They were both great.
“Trophy Wife” has seemingly established a blueprint for its episodes and while it has paid off somewhat successfully as it has produced entertaining television, I hope that the writers will be able to surprise us with future episodes. While definitely one of the best new shows of the season, there is still a lot of room for improvement and, given the opportunity, the writers are certainly capable of elevating the series.
Quotes & Observations:
- “There is cow milk in this fridge, I mean, hello, where’s the llama milk?” Jackie’s nonsensical disapproval of everything that stocks the fridge was great, “only one kind of humus.”
- “Thank you to most of you.” Of course Diane cannot resist the opportunity to be slightly passive aggressive to a bunch of high schoolers.
- “I don’t hate your outfit, I’ve just never seen your legs before.” Sweet Bert.
- Everything that came out of Michaela Watkins’ mouth was golden, just fantastic.