' Cinema Romantico: Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (Couples Therapy)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (Couples Therapy)

We live in (…varnishing trumpet to herald phrase…) THE GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION!!!, which does not merely mean that TV is grrrrrreat! but that so many of the stories in so many of the TV shows have become long and winding texts of multi-layers and penetrating themes. It all supposedly makes the cinema look like the kid’s table. Even though I will argue until they put me in my grave and chloroform me just to make sure I can’t argue anymore that “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” could ring out loud with meaning and beauty and tragedy over the course of 5 seconds in a way no TV show could do in 5 years, but I’ve made that argument before and so I won’t again (even though I just did).

All this is a way to indicate that episodic television, episodes of the standalone variety, an individual story this week and an individual story next week and so on, is becoming is becoming less popular. Well, maybe “popular” isn’t the right word. Maybe “critically acclaimed” is the term I seek. After all, something like eleventy billion people watch “The Big Bang Theory” so at least in that sense episodic television still thrives. Unless “The Big Bang Theory”, which I don’t watch, really does have multiple storylines threaded throughout its varying seasons, a CBS-esque novel, and that’s what people are responding to. I somehow doubt it. But I don’t care. I’m not watching to find out. Two regular TV shows is already enough burden on my pure-movie sensibilities.


At the conclusion of “Couples Therapy” I first thought I’d type up some hooey about confrontation – avoiding it, initiating it, stumbling into it, and so forth, since the episode is triggered by Pete refusing to tell Kate that he is thrown out her pot of chili since it’s awful (Kate can’t cook! Ha ha ha!) and made his own and not told her so she thinks she made it except that Dr. Diane Buckley sniffs out the scheme in, like, four seconds and calls Pete on it and Pete avoids further confrontation by claiming he and Kate are in couples therapy even though they aren’t and……well, the ensuing hijinks are most obvious.

But what’s so bad about hijinks? What’s so bad if the confrontational “theme” is really just the means to deliver a rip-roaring twenty-two minutes of sheer joy minus any meaning? Nothing, that’s what. It’s an episode – written and directed by Gail Lerner – that knows its characters to their truest extent, expertly works all of them into the episode in a delightful way and then lets them play off each other while giving each actor a chance to excel at what they do best. It’s a rum-encrusted Rice Krispie treat for the “Trophy Wife” Lifers. (And yes, in this day and age, sticking around for 18 episodes and watching almost all of them at the exact time they actually air makes you a “Lifer”.)

Seriously. Seriously. I cannot convey just how this episode made me mentally jump for joy. Bradley Whitford’s lawyer-esque line readings, always stomping on the other person’s line before it can resonate with the non-existent jury (“I followed Duran Duran on the ‘Hungry Like A Wolf’ Tour” – “So did my dad” – “Get out of my house”) and Michaela Watkins’ line readings that always come from obtuse angles (“If I could pick any time period to live in, it would be 1996”) and Marcia Gay Harden’s line readings that are 17 degrees below freezing (“I always say if it appeals to the masses, it must be the best”) and Bailee Madison’s line readings that are still above freezing but dropping and will one day be just like her mother’s and Ryan Lee’s line readings that are a teenage boy’s utterly awkward and hopeless attempts at playing it cool (“I've gotta work on my wink timing”) and Bert's line readings of grown-up eagerness in a kiddie voice (“Now where's my iron?”) and Meg mellowy putting the kibosh on Hillary’s attempts to perform sociological research and Dr. Diane Buckley and Hillary standing beside each other at the exact same angle and looking so much like mother and daughter that it will make you wistful AND make you laugh and Dr. Diane Buckley and precocious Bert conversing in mandarin and Warren listening to “Up Where We Belong” on his Dad’s old Walkman and Pete expressing his Andre Agassi idolization (“That's why you've always wanted to get an earring” - “He's so cool”) and sweet Jesus did I mention the shorts Malin Akerman played tennis in which I’m well aware makes me a shallow male but in certain life situations we males are left choiceless and can only-

(Reader grabs keyboard. Nick: “Hey! What are you doing?!” Reader: “For the love of God, that sentence had been going on for almost three-hundred words! Someone had to stop you!”)

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