This week’s episode of The McCarthy‘s, more than any other so far, felt incredibly retrograde. In every way, I felt like I could’ve been watching a rerun of a sitcom on TVLand. The plot had Marjorie spending the night at the hospital, getting minor surgery. She leaves Arthur with a lot of instructions, including a note to stay hydrated accompanied by a list of what counts as a liquid. (Okay, it’s easy to scoff, but I had no idea that coffee, alcohol and soda all dehydrate you until my roommate told me. Some of us are Arthur’s in need of a Marjorie). It seems like she’s going overboard thinking he can’t take care of himself, but before you know it Arthur is on the floor in the fetal position because he couldn’t manage to make himself a grilled cheese. Yes, everything about that feels like a sitcom from at least ten years ago.
Here’s the thing: I still found this episode pretty charming and amusing while side-eyeing the old school plot. I could go the rest of my life without seeing a sitcom episode about how husbands are so helpless they need their wife around to do the simplest thing, but everything about the execution of this episode was very enjoyable. The jokes throughout where solid. When Marjorie explains the problem with her gall bladder, she says, “No, this isn’t God punishing me for the horrible thing I said.” In a cutaway we see her saying “Derek Jeter is kind of handsome.” Sean gets really into lying and invents a dead person, who keeps being brought up throughout the episode with effective pay offs. Even moments like the reveal of Arthur not knowing how to make a sandwich or hydrate himself without Marjorie work in execution. If you can put aside that it’s been done before, it’s done well here. Most importantly, the moment when Arthur and Marjorie are reunited at the end and both apologize to each other felt genuine. While I often cringe at similar sitcom marriages, this one works through and through.
Perhaps what makes the retrograde feel of this episode especially forgivable is the fact that Arthur and Marjorie are supposed to feel old fashioned. This isn’t presented as the only sort of lifestyle that exists. We know that they have one child who’s gay and one is going to be a single mother. This allows the show to depict an old school marriage without the smothering feeling that sinks in from older sitcoms that genuinely refuse to acknowledge anything else.
Ronny had the b-plot in this episode and it was also the only one (as far as I recall) that never mentions his gay identity. It almost feels like this episode is specifically an attempt to suck in older viewers. That said, his b-plot was adorable with him deciding to become a more ruthless basketball coach.
This was a fine episode but the cliche plot kept it from being the show at its firing-on-all-cylinders best like last week’s episode was.