The first season of Ted Lasso was gonna be a hard act to follow. Not only did it come out at a time when some positivity was sorely needed, but the overall theme of people warming up to Ted was just fun to watch unfold. So where does a second season go, when everyone likes Ted now? Well… it goes nowhere, apparently. The first several episodes of Season 2 felt very meandering, like there was no end goal in sight. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a show that’s more bite-sized and laidback, but the stakes are sooooo low. Even the most saccharine content needs some conflict. To be fair to Ted Lasso, things do pick up about halfway through when we start to see Ted’s anxiety and Nate’s selfishness manifest themselves. I don’t have a problem with either of these developments, but I also don’t feel like they were foreshadowed very well and kind of come out of nowhere.
For Ted, maybe that’s the point. We, the audience, only see what Ted, the character, allows us to see. And I’m okay with Ted not being able to keep up the facade 24/7. I think it was needed to see him break down. I can’t say the same for Nate, though. Nate is a huge asshole in Season 2. While I get where this is possibly coming from, it requires me to fill in some of my own blanks, and none of it is forgivable to this character. He’s beyond redeemable now. At least Season 2 did something with him, though. Other characters like Rebecca have so little to do in Season 2. For her especially, it’s such a waste of talent. The only character who gets better in Season 2 is Roy Kent. Seriously, he is the best thing about the show, and I’m glad they found ways to include him even though he no longer plays on the team. If Season 3 is nothing more than ten episodes of Roy grunting at people, I’m still on board.
I might have spoken too soon about how great this show is. Season 1 still makes for some really funny TV, but Season 2 is definitely not as good. The main issue I have is that they’ve changed what it means to be an “other two.” For most of the season, Chase takes a backseat, because it’s their mom who is the famous one now. Though Molly Shannon is fantastic in this role, I liked her more as the stage mom in Season 1 instead of being a talk show host in Season 2. That also completely changes Streeter’s reason to exist, as he is no longer a manager but Pat’s love interest. Ew. Well, technically, Streeter is still a manager, but he co-manages with Brooke now. This means Brooke is a successful businesswoman, which makes the “other two” gimmick no longer work for her. Granted, the position stresses her out, and there’s comedy in watching her fail upwards, but it doesn’t carry the same charm as her being a lowly assistant in Season 1.
At least we can still delight in Cary’s struggles to be an actor. I was sad that he really did replace his agent from Season 1, though the agent that wanted him to write a screenplay, then couldn’t bring herself to read it was funny. I also liked the running gag of so many staff members in the hospital being actors practicing for their roles. Again, it felt very Arrested Development-y. And they got me pretty good with the callback to Brooke camping out in the real estate unit, so much so that I had to keep checking if I was watching the right episode until I realized what was going on. So, yes, the writing is still pretty sharp. I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t watch Season 2 if you liked Season 1. Just know that the character dynamics change a lot. Maybe this means a new Dubek family member becomes famous in every subsequent season. We’re running out of family members if that’s the case, though.
This is the funniest show I’ve seen in a long time. The writing is really sharp with expertly crafted callbacks and amusing lampoons of pop culture. It kind of reminds me of Arrested Development, not only because of its approach to comedy but the fact that it’s about a family navigating the public eye. Plus, actor Drew Tarver totally feels like a young Jason Bateman. His reactions and delivery are perfect. So it sucks that he’s often given the worst storylines. In the first few episodes, his character, Cary, struggles to understand what his relationship is with his roommate, but it ultimately goes nowhere and provides zero laughs. Later in the season, Cary gets a little too fame hungry and pushes away the high school teacher he met earlier, a charming character I was hoping we’d get to see more of.
The best material is when Cary and his sister, Brooke, have to deal head-on with living in their younger brother’s celebrity shadow. Chase’s sweet naivety clashes so perfectly with Cary’s and Brooke’s jealousy that it’s a shame Chase isn’t in the season more. I get that the show is about “the other two,” but I’m more interested in what makes them “the other two” and not just Cary and Brooke as themselves. Like, Cary becoming somewhat famous because of Chase’s song about his gay brother and Brooke having to be Chase’s assistant are perfect plot points. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention Ken Marino as Chase’s manager, who is perhaps the best thing about the show. I love how incompetent and insecure he is, and I hope future seasons find ways to keep him around now that Chase is apparently off to college.
The only thing weirder than the story in Miracle Workers’ first season is the fact that the show overall is an anthology, and Season 2 has nothing to do with Season 1. That’s kind of a shame, because Season 1 sets up some interesting mechanics that would have been fun to further explore. Like The Good Place, though, it’s probably better to end when it’s meant to rather than unnecessarily drag a story out. And yes, I’m deliberately name-dropping The Good Place, because Miracle Workers shares a lot in common with it. They both paint a somewhat cynical view of heaven and have a similar sense of humor. The difference is that Miracle Workers’ version of heaven is run by sheer incompetence. I mean, God is played by Steve Buscemi; do I really need to say more?
It actually kind of bugged me how heaven used the same (albeit outdated) tech that we have on Earth, and the angels still had to sleep and eat like normal people. They didn’t play with the concept of celestial beings in the same way that The Good Place did. But then there’s an episode near the end where God’s family ridicules him for making Earth and lazily populating it with creatures that are just like him, and that one conversation cleverly explained/excused the show’s whole gimmick. The thing about Miracle Workers is that it has some really funny ideas. It’s the execution that comes across as a little cheesy. The Good Place could be cheesy, too, but made up for it with heart. Miracle Workers isn’t as sentimental but is just as funny… if you can look past some of the sillier effects and dialogue.
The Righteous Gemstones is a Danny McBride show, someone who I’ve never really found funny. After finishing Gemstones, I tried watching Eastbound & Down next, and McBride’s narcissistic shtick was pretty much the same. It actually works here, though, because it clashes so elegantly with the religious personas he and his family members are trying to put on. This initially felt like it could’ve been a “Breaking Bad for televangelists,” given that the first episode ends with Jesse (McBride) purposefully running over people with his car. That was a great hook, but the main thread isn’t the blackmailing storyline so much as it is just general family dysfunction. The Gemstones, as it turns out, aren’t necessarily criminals. They just don’t always practice what they preach.
Thus, the show is more about lampooning hypocrisy than it is lampooning religion. The season ending with Jesse in Haiti—picking up a shovel to help dig a trench without so much as a word—made me rethink the negative review I was formulating mid-season. It was a really strong finale that shows these characters do have room to grow. Well, except for Judy, who is maybe beyond repair. But I love that the wildcard character was given to an actress for once, as Edi Patterson does a great job in being so hilariously intense and inappropriate. She is definitely the highlight. I also thought Adam Devine was perfectly cast as the pastor meant to appeal to the youth. Like McBride, his usual acting doesn’t do it for me, but The Righteous Gemstones seems to be where these types of personalities can finally shine.
I don’t care for musicals, but I’ve always wanted to see a story where 1-2 characters know they’re in a musical and aren’t part of the act. That’s kind of what you get with Schmigadoon, at least in the early episodes. Keegan-Michael Key is particularly good at expressing annoyance whenever a song starts. There’s also a great gag where the other normie, Melissa, walks out on someone doing a song and dance number, and you can still hear him going at it inside. But that’s pretty much all you get in terms of anti-musical comedy, because this show is more of an homage than a parody. They still want you to like the songs that they obviously put a lot of work into. And you know what? The songs aren’t bad. My only complaint is that several of them go on for a little too long.
The other issue I have with Schmigadoon is how rushed the story feels in the end. The penultimate episode, for instance, is much shorter than the other episodes and ends so abruptly that I thought I’d missed something. Jane Krakowski shows up out of nowhere in the same episode and is never seen again. That might have been a joke itself based on her character’s Sound of Music inspiration, though I’m not familiar enough with The Sound of Music to get it. Clearly, I’m not the target audience here, but I was still invested in the humor and premise. So it was a pretty big letdown how quickly the normies got back together, even though things were going well with their own romantic interests. It really feels like 2-3 episodes are missing. That, or the brevity is another musical reference I’m too uncultured to understand.