This week’s episode of The McCarthys was hurt by a middle act that was absolutely absurd and ridiculous, too out of character and logic defying to be at all funny. This lazy, unbelievable sitcom writing served as an unfortunate reminder of the kind of show The McCarthys could still turn into. It started with the family promising to give up everything that Jackie has to give up while she’s pregnant, to show their support. Of course, the moment this happens you know the rest of the episode will be about them breaking this promise. I don’t expect this show to be unpredictable. But, I couldn’t believe just how sloppy the execution of the plot was. As soon as they’re left alone, they start talking about how it won’t be hard to give up roller coasters, then there’s immediately a cut to them on a roller coaster. We get that beat repeated with almost everything on the list: we cut to them drinking beers in a bar, then sitting in a sauna, then eating sushi. The whole time there are lines like ‘why are we doing this?’ and “this has to stop!’ that only serve to draw attention to how ridiculous this sequence is. What’s amazing is that this sequence wouldn’t make sense even without their promise to Jackie. Putting aside the fact that they instantly decided to betray her, this show is about a family that lives in a rut and rarely does anything besides sit in their living room. The idea that they would ever spend an afternoon together, going to a theme park and then heading out for sushi, is ridiculous. I cringed through the entire middle act because it completely ignored who these characters are. It gave a vision of this show as the kind of sitcom where the characters have surface-level traits but are otherwise empty vessels for whatever gags are easiest and it was painful to watch that.
The fact that this middle act was stuck in between some very nice emotional, character-driven stuff that actually made sense makes it all the more frustrating, but at least the beginning and end of this episode give me hope that the show will still generally be quality. The beginning and end focus on Marjorie’s discomfort with being a grandma. In the beginning she talks about how she wasn’t prepared for this. None of her children were close to settling down and then suddenly she found out she was going to be a grandma. They really did a nice job with the emotional nuance of this situation. The same goes for the ending, where she talks about her fears of how her family will treat her when she becomes an old person. These scenes showed that at its best this show does a great job of deriving humor from real, sympathetic, character-driven stuff.
This is definitely their most uneven episode yet, but it still has so much going for it. Marjorie will always be a great source of humor and emotional resonance, of course. But every character really got a moment to shine this episode. In particular, the character of Sean has been shining more and more as the show goes on and using a one-liner from him to cap off a sequence almost always sells it. This show has such good characters and I hope they learn to draw the humor out from them organically rather than relying on sitcom set pieces that don’t make sense.