The McCarthys has always been fun, but lately it’s really hit its stride with a run of excellent episodes (knock on wood). “Hall of Fame” brings us yet another emotional episode that’s funny throughout and shows off the strong ensemble.
It all starts with the family celebrating Sean McCarthy’s induction into his high school’s hall of fame. When Ronny asks if it’s for basketball, he gleefully jokes “no, for academics.” Sean’s constant earnest cheerfulness, which has always been counted on for a great quick punchline, is really shown off and explored in this episode. It’s the biggest Sean episode yet and doesn’t disappoint in developing him. They get into the main conflict when Gerard is jealous of the hall of fame induction. Marjorie can’t stand to see one of her twins be left out so she tells Gerard he was also inducted. It’s a classic sitcom plot but they execute it very well here by filling it with real emotion. At one point, Sean reminds a jealous Gerard that while Sean is great at basketball, that’s the only thing he’s great at. Gerard is better off in every way and shouldn’t be jealous that Sean was great at one thing back in high school. This episode is full of emotional moments immediately punctuated by great jokes and after Sean’s speech, Marjorie declares, “Now that one’s got feelings? You people are exhausting.”
In the b-plot, Jackie finds out that Fatty– the deceased father of her child– is also being inducted into the hall of fame, which means she’ll be running into his mother for the first time. She knows she has to tell her that she’s pregnant with her grandchild but she’s nervous. This plot is so heartwrenching, I’m somewhat surprised it wasn’t an a-plot. However, a situation so emotionally raw might feel off it was too prominent. As a b-plot it hit the perfect balance between seriousness and hilarity. The moment when Fatty’s mom finally finds out the truth and responds simply by pulling Jackie into a big hug is incredible.
The McCarthys is starting to remind me of a less whimsical and more grounded Raising Hope. It doesn’t shy away from real problems. It’s not glossy or saccharine. But at the same time, it’s a great feel-good show. It creates a real sense of optimism by having true conflicts but creating a world where familial bonds mean something. The formula of “families who make fun of but care about each other” is decades old but it’s still a rarity to see it executed just right.
This episode also stuck out to me as really showing what an ensemble this show has become. In the setpiece of this episode (the hall of fame ceremony), every single McCarthy besides Ronny gets a speech. That certainly indicates that a shift has occurred. I don’t know if that’s the result of deliberate re-tooling or not. I have mixed feelings. I still love Ronny and would like them to go back to giving him a-plots, but everyone in the show is so strong I’m glad they’re being utilized.