Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who is David Neher?

Clockwise from top left: David Neher in New Girl, Modern Family, How I
Met Your Mother
and Community. Photos courtesy of, and CBS.

That Neher is some kind of something. Boy, this Neher is all anybody's ever talking about. So sick and tired of hearing about how brilliant that Neher is. Overrated.

Alright, so maybe you're not yet tired of hearing about how brilliant David Neher is. That's probably because you don't know his name. However, if you're anything like me, looking at the photos up there is tickling your brain. You're wrinkling your forehead and desperately searching IMDb to figure out just where exactly you've seen that curly head of hair and outrageously proportioned forehead before. You just know he looks familiar, but you don't know why.

To answer your question: you haven't just seen David Neher somewhere, you've seen him everywhere. Did you recently check out a show by the great sketch comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade? Or maybe you checked out an episode of Funny or Die's "The Amazing Adventures of David and Jennie"? Or, most likely, maybe you saw Neher in one of his four (!) guest appearances on network sitcoms this fall: he obnoxiously berated Schmidt in the pilot episode of New Girl; was tortured by the study group in Community's "Competitive Ecology"; stole Haley's money in exchange for a promise of fake IDs on Modern Family's "Hit and Run"; and, most recently, offered a pregnant Lily his nachos and some advice on facial hair in "Tick Tick Tick," the ninth episode of How I Met Your Mother's seventh season.

You would think that appearing in sitcoms on each of the four major networks would keep a guy plenty busy, but Neher isn't about to stop. He was just cast opposite Jay Malone as one of the leads on Conan O'Brien's as-yet-untitled comedy pilot for TBS (which is currently referred to as BFF, you know... in case you were interested). Neher will be playing the childhood BFF (and there's why the tentative title is relevant!) of Malone's character, a husband and father who quits his job and moves back to his old neighborhood. BFF may not be the Community spinoff, Todd!, about a young veteran's journey to honor his dying father's wish of finishing college (copyright Alex Israel), that we were all hoping for (and by "we all," I mean only me), but here's hoping the show succeeds anyway. After all, I'd love to be able to remember Neher's name without looking it up on IMDb. Such a hard-working guy deserves that much.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Thanksgiving, so let's give thanks (for TV)!

Photo courtesy of

It might not seem like there's much to be thankful for on TV right now, what with the benching of Community, the smaller episode order for Cougartown, and the continued existence of two (!) incoherent Ryan Murphy shows that somehow attract enormous ratings. But, in the spirit of the holiday, I found some things in the land of television for which I am truly grateful.

The return of Arrested Development

It's really happening, people. Netflix has officially picked up a mini-season (nine or ten episodes) of everyone's favorite, brilliant-but-cancelled show to air in early 2013, hopefully followed by a movie! Our Bluths have been saved at last!

30 Rock is coming back!

The silver lining in the sad Community cloud is the return of 30 Rock to the airwaves in January. I've missed my Liz Lemon, and while I certainly would have preferred that Liz, Jack, Tracy, Jenna and co. return by way of the cancellation of Whitney, I'll take what I can get to have them on the airwaves again.

A string of fantastic Fringe and Community episodes

If Community and Fringe are in their final seasons (god forbid), at least they both went down in a blaze of creative glory. Episodes like Fringe's "One Night in October," "And Those We Left Behind" and "Wallflower" were gorgeous, twisty and beautifully resonant pieces of storytelling, while Community knocked it out of the park with "Competitive Ecology," "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" and what may be the show's best half-hour ever, "Remedial Chaos Theory." Plus, this happened.

The Vampire Diaries is on the CW

As you are probably all aware, TVD is soapy, inventive, fast-paced and just plain fun. Along with Fringe and Community, it's my favorite show on TV. (If you watch, you understand why, and if you don't watch, don't judge.) Luckily, while the series gets ratings that would be abysmal by any other network's standards (yes, even NBC's), it airs on the CW, a network that has greenlit nine seasons of One Tree Hill. It's nice to know that at least one of my shows will be airing doppelganger hijinks and jaw-dropping twists for years to come.

Game of Thrones winning Emmys, and generally being awesome

HBO's lavish, nuanced, dark and totally fantastic adaptation of George R.R. Martin's novels was a great example of a fantasy epic done right. HBO managed to really nail a complex fantasy epic and show the world that fantasy isn't just for nerds anymore, just as Battlestar Galactica and Fringe did for science fiction. Peter Dinklage's well-deserved Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister was just icing on the cake. Now, can we work on getting one of those winged statuettes for Emilia Clarke?

Up All Night: a show that deserves Will Arnett

We all love GOB Bluth and Devon Banks, but nobody liked Running Wilde. So it's nice to see Will Artnett doing excellent work on Up All Night alongside fellow comedy stars Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph. Who knew that the man known for over-the-top craziness could be such a steady, loving and totally hilarious dad?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Don't let saving Community distract you from saving Fringe!

Photo courtesy of

I know that everyone is focused on some extremely upsetting news we all got earlier in the week about Community. And I know that, right now, we're all really focused on banding together, saving the show, and reading the ultimate goal of six seasons and a movie. But we can't forget about the other fantastic, innovative, ratings-challenged shows on the air. Like, say, Fringe.

"Wallflower," last night's fall finale, was a great episode of television with plenty of moving moments, character development, and a great final twist courtesy of Ms. Nina Sharp. Last night's episode contained some fantastic performances as well, particularly on the part of Seth Gabel. The newly-promoted series regular did great work as Lincoln Lee, a man trying to balance the twin stresses of his new job, his disintegrating worldview, and his fragile connection to Olivia. The final scene where he waits for her in an all-night diner and she doesn't show is heartbreaking, an emotion which is quickly replaced by shock when the reason for Olivia's no-show is revealed.

This week's case was also beautifully handled. Some reviews criticized the Fringe team's pursuit of an escaped genetic experiment - the wallflower of the title - as being too simple, but I felt that the simplicity allowed for young Eugene's sad story to take center-stage. The poor guy just wanted to be seen - another moment that, like last week's superb central mystery, was written so that it was applicable to so many characters - and his final moments of life, in which he carries on a simple conversation with a woman in the elevator before dying, was beautifully handled. The plight of the invisible man could be applied to Lincoln, waiting for Olivia to notice him; Peter, kept from interacting with the outside world to which he doesn't belong; Walter, holed up in his lab; and, finally, Olivia, who doesn't know the real nature of her relationship with Nina, her importance as a test subject, or even why she keeps getting migraines.

Unfortunately for everyone, the wallflower storyline can also be applied to Fringe itself, which continued its ratings death spiral last night. The fact that both Fringe and Community turned in some of their best episodes this week, as they rest on the brink of cancellation, is very disheartening to those of us who deeply love these shows, and who just want to see where their brilliant writers and actors can take them in the future. So, let's keep saving Community, but let's not forget about saving Fringe. Sign this petition. Join the Facebook Group. And, above all, keep watching, writing, and talking.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'Fringe' circles the 'Lost' wormhole

Photo courtesy of
It's been noted by a number of people that last week's superb Fringe episode "And Those We Left Behind" made a number of references to Lost. The newspaper showing the Red Sox winning the World Series, the sudden time jumps, Peter complaining that an equation contained too many variables all added up to one hell of a Lost-y vibe to the enterprise, a fact that causes a little bit of post-traumatic stress disorder in those of us who suffered through that other J.J. Abrams sci-fi series' finale.

This episode was in many ways highly reminiscent of my favorite Lost episode of all time, "The Constant." Both hours centered around mysterious time shifts, both featured "special" heroes (Desmond and Peter) who were uniquely able to deal with the time fluctuations, and both were centered around love stories in which one partner was willing to rip apart the universe for love. I'm not going to lie, these similarities got me really worried at the beginning of the episode, because I was sure that I could see a sideways-world type awakening (it pains me even to type those words) coming, where Olivia would somehow stop the time fluctuations by remembering Peter - by becoming his constant, if you will. "The Constant" may have been a magnificent hour television - I still cry every time I watch Desmond and Penny's phone call at the end - but it's hard to look back at it now without thinking about the ultimately unfulfilling place the story ended up.

"And Those We Left Behind," however, completely subverted my expectations. The episode was subtly moving in a way that Lost, which worked best when it was in sweeping-epic mode, could never quite pull off when Terry O'Quinn wasn't onscreen. The writers could have chosen to unsubtly hammer home the parallels between Raymond's destructive attempt to save his Alzheimer's-stricken wife, Kate, and Walter's rescue of Peter - lord knows they've done it before - but they instead chose to focus on the deep bond between husband wife (beautifully played by real-life husband and wife Stephen Root and Romy Rosemont) and the way that bond both drove Raymond to rewrite time while forcing Kate to stop him.

Raymond and Kate's love wasn't Desmond and Penny's earth-shattering passion. It was just the unspoken love that comes with thirty years of marriage, the kind that reminds you to change your dentist appointment, but can also push you to rip a hole in the space-time continuum. The great thing about the relationship was that, unlike so many other relationships on TV, it focused on the way that kind of comfortable married love can be just as important as epic passion, and just as difficult to lose.

It made perfect sense, then, that when Peter came face-to-face with an unbreakable, lived-in love, that he finally realized that Olivia is not his Olivia. She's not the woman he got to know over four years, the woman who slowly built a relationship with him and who finally, grudgingly opened her damaged soul to him. She's not the woman who, in the future, he weathered the apocalypse with, and whose death shattered him. This woman is someone else, and Peter doesn't belong with her, just as he didn't belong with Faulivia. I love the way the Fringe writers managed to take a situation that, on the surface, seemed so perfectly applicable to Walter's life, and instead show the way Raymond and Kate's story resonates with Peter.

After watching this episode, I'm not really worried about Fringe going the way of Lost, because the writers subverted my expectations and delivered an episode that, while it shared many elements with "The Constant," was Fringe all the way down. I thought that "And Those We Left Behind" easily ranked in the top few hours of the series, right up there with "There's More Than One Of Everything," "Peter" and "White Tulip." I'm hoping that tomorrow night's mid-season finale (!) will be address some of the unease that's been building in Peter, and that maybe we'll find out why he's back and what his return is doing to the world. Plus, I'm hearing hints about the return of a certain character who, last time we saw him, was operating at half-capacity. Timeline reboots really have great potential, don't they?

PDPTR is now on Twitter!

Lovely readers, do you get frustrated when the blog doesn't update often enough? Do you want to hear about all the shows I watch, rather than the more limited set about which I write? Do you get frustrated when you have to read more than 140 characters at a time? Well, fear not, because now you can follow @AlexPDPTR on Twitter for all the TV commentary, news, and musings you can stand (and, let's face it, probably more). So use the spiffy new "Follow" button to follow me on Twitter; if you check back tonight, you might even see some instant reactions to "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," tonight's new episode of Community!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Help Save 'Community'!

Help save Community, or Alison Brie will kill you with paintballs. Photo courtesy of

I know that, like me, many of you are upset about the recent news regarding Community; specifically, the news that everyone's favorite study group will be going on an "indefinite hiatus" after Christmas. (And, as we all learned from the most recent season of 30 Rock, this kind of "forced hiatus" means that everyone needs to start working on their back-up plans, be they stand-up comedy or substitute teaching.) Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that Community will be canceled, but it's not good. At all.

However, there are things you can do about this! First of all, you should visit, sign their petition, and then browbeat all your friends until they do the same. (If you're a Community fan, I'm sure they're used to it by now, and they'll probably just sigh quietly and do what you ask.) Then - and this is the most important part - sit down in front of your TV on Thursday at 8:00 and watch the show. Watch it live, on television, if you can; if not, watch it on Hulu or buy it on iTunes. Do everything you can to let NBC know that you watch the show and that you love it.

You can also send letters to NBC. Seriously. If they start getting enough letters, there is always a chance it will have an effect. Write to the network (yes, write, with a pen, on paper), and tell them why you love the show. Tell them about your Community Halloween costumes, viewing parties, blog posts, anything. Show them that you care. You may not think it helps, but knowing that the show has a fervent, invested fanbase is the sort of things that network executives (sometimes) take into account. Just read Maureen Ryan's piece about Community if you don't believe me, and send a letter to NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, care of NBC Universal, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608. So, put on your darkest timeline felt goatees, and let's get to work! I already have.

Watching the show and writing letters might be more important, but darkest timeline goatees are FUN.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This can't be good...

Come on NBC, don't make Britta sad! Be cool. Photo courtesy of

We have officially entered the darkest timeline. (Yes, I stole that joke from The A.V. Club, and I am way too upset to care.) NBC released their winter lineup today, and Community has been bumped to make way for... wait for it... a sitcom based on the life of Chelsea Handler. NBC has said that all 22 episodes of this season will be shot and aired, but there is just no way this is good news. I can only sum up my feelings in one way:

I certainly hold out hope that Community will soon be back in its rightful place; after all, the network already has one tanking sitcom starring an abrasive female comedian who does nothing more than repeat the word "vagina" and hope it sticks, so the Chelsea Handler show could be cancelled very, very quickly. Plus, there is a silver lining, in that 30 Rock will come back after Christmas and the very deserving, very funny Up All Night will move to Thursday, while the aforementioned vagina-centric sitcom will be moved to Wednesday, where it can compete against the juggernaut that is ABC's comedy block. However, as someone who is still dealing with the trauma that was the cancellation of Arrested Development, I know that this is not good news. So, pray to the TV gods (who giveth and who taketh away), and repeat after me: Six seasons and a movie. Six seasons and a movie! For the love of god, six seasons and a movie!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I want to sing karaoke with Joel McHale!

Photo courtesy of

Was Jeff and Dean Pelton's (sorry... Craig's) karaoke duet to Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" on Thursday night's Community the best musical moment in the history of television? Yes. It obviously was. Not only do you have Joel McHale and Jim Rash singing their hearts out to a slice of pure pop cheese (one from a Batman movie, no less), but the scene also featured Troy and Abed playing with shadow puppets, Britta and Shirley slowly realizing that the hitchhiker they've picked up might be a serial killer, and Chevy Chase hallucinating. It can't be topped.

That doesn't mean, however, that other shows haven't given it their all. So, in honor of the magic that was Jeff and the Dean's "Kiss," here are some of the best musical moments that preceded it. (And no, there will be nothing on here from Glee.)

30 Rock, Midnight Train to Georgia

There are a lot of fantastic musical moments to choose from when it comes to Tina Fey's weirdest brainchild: Tracy's novelty single "Werewolf Barmitzvah," Jenna's number-one-in-Israel hit "Muffin Top" and pretty much anything involving Cheyenne Jackson's Danny. The best one, however, is the rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia," which features the entire cast narrating Kenneth's (ultimately failed) return to his hometown of Stone Mountain. The kicker, however, comes after the number ends, when guest star Gladys Knight emerges from her dressing room to shut everyone up. (I apologize for the lack of video; NBC has been cracking down on copyright recently.)

Arrested Development, Afternoon Delight

Glee tried to pull the old misinterpretation-of-the-song trick last season, but all the cool people know that the late, great AD did it first, and did it better. First Michael and Maeby, and then Lindsay and George-Michael, decided to duet on Starland Vocal Band's ode to daytime lovin', not realizing the lyrical content of the song was far from the wholesome, innocent message implied by the melody. In classic Bluth family fashion, hilarity and horror ensued, and it was glorious.

Scrubs, Safety Dance

Scrubs has featured a number of great musical moments over the years, from Ted's band's performances to the musical episode, but I have a soft spot for Turk's rendition of Safety Dance. He only sings a few bars, but the song is at once unexpected and perfect for the moment, and Donald Faison's delivery is phenomenal.

Battlestar Galactica, All Along the Watchtower

As the fourth season went on, the use of Dylan's classic tune as a plot point began to grow wearying and nonsensical. There were too many instances of forcing song lyrics into the dialogue (hint: no one has ever used the phrase "There must be some kind of way out of here" in casual conversation) and too many random coincidences (apparently the chord structure spells out the coordinates to Earth? I don't even know any more). But it can't be denied that the moment when Saul Tigh, Chief Tyrol, Anders and Tory Foster all gave in to the music echoing in their heads and realized what they were was shocking in the best way. Not to mention the final scene of Season 3, where the song plays over a gorgeous visual of the camera zooming out from Lee Adama's bewildered face, racing into space, and closing in on Earth.

Lost, Unnamed Scottish Drinking Song

Lost was not a show that was generally known for cheerful moments, which was one of the reasons it was so awesome to see Desmond and Charlie, after a night of heavy drinking with Hurley, singing Scottish drinking songs on the beach in "Flashes Before Your Eyes". Of course, it would soon turn sour (as these things invariably do), but the moment lasted long enough to offer a respite to both the characters and the audience. (Sorry for the lack of video; apparently I was the only person who found this scene charming.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can the Muppets host the Oscars?

Photo courtesy of

Now that Brett Ratner has left his post as the producer of the 2011 Academy Awards as a result of his generally Ratner-esque behavior, the show is in the market for a new host. (Previously announced host Eddie Murphy dropped out after Ratner's resignation.) And a new group of candidates have thrown their hats into the newly empty ring. These candidates, like Murphy, have been out of the spotlight for many years and, also like Murphy, are poised for a comeback in the wake of a new movie. Unlike Murphy, tey are made of felt.

That's right; a Facebook campaign called The Muppets Should Host the 2011 Oscars has sprung to argue that, well, the Muppets should host the 2011 Oscars. How likely this movement is to succeed is questionable - other hypothetical candidates include Tom Hanks and Steve Martin, and having the Muppets as hosts would probably be technically difficult to coordinate - but I would be very excited if this development were to occur. And someone else would too.

Update: Billy Crystal just announced via Twitter that he will be hosting the 2012 Oscars. While the LA Times noted, fairly hilariously, that the tweet in question was "construed [by some] as a joke," it appears this is actually happening. While Crystal is a solid, funny awards-show host, I'm a little disappointed that the Muppets were taken out of the running so early.

Friday, November 4, 2011

You say "absurdly self-referential," and I say "conceptual artist"

Danny Pudi and Gillian Jacobs in Community. Photo courtesy of

This fall, many media outlets are trumpeting the resurgence of comedy on TV, based on the enormous ratings pulled in by The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Modern Family and New Girl and seeming fatigue with reality shows and heavily serialized dramas. Reality shows like The X Factor and expensive sci-fi dramas like Terra Nova have been pulling in solid numbers, but they're a far cry from their smash predecessors American Idol and Lost, while a number of underwhelming dramas (The Playboy Club, Charlie's Angels) came and went with barely a whisper. Compared to the enormous buzz surrounding comedy offerings like New Girl and 2 Broke Girls, dramas and reality shows are looking weak indeed.

It was a little shocking, then, to read a recent headline on that asks if the 2011-2012 season is the worst season for sitcoms in a decade. (For the record, the author ultimately concludes that it's only the third-worst season for new comedies since 2000; apparently the sitcoms of 2002-2003, 2000-2001 and 2007-2008 were worse). After completing the list, it becomes clear why the author chooses to bash himself against the impenetrable wall of the TV pundit elite. The top three TV seasons for comedies are, in order: 2009-2010 (the premiere year of Community, Cougartown and Modern Family); 2001-2002 (Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Scrubs, The Tick and Undeclared); and 2008-2009 (Better Off Ted and Parks and Recreation). In other words, the "best" years for sitcoms were the years that spawned low-rated critical darlings like Parks and Rec, Community, Scrubs and all the short-lived, too-edgy-for-primetime series that premiered in 2001. The 2003-2004 season, meanwhile, falls midway down the list, because apparently the reviled Two and a Half Men cancels out the genius of Arrested Development.

This piece brings into sharp relief the divide between critical adoration and popularity. Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory aside, almost all the shows the author categorizes as "good" spent most of their existence with the fear of cancellation hanging over their heads (if they even made it far enough to worry about being cancelled). If you were to look at The A.V. Club's TV page on a Friday morning, you could be forgiven for thinking that Community was the most popular show in the history of television. Meanwhile, out in the real world, The Big Bang Theory pulled in four times the viewership of Community, while Rules of Engagement (which is apparently a show that appears on television) had triple the viewership of Parks and Recreation.

There is a really fascinating dynamic at play here between the opinions of critics and what's popular with the masses. Unfortunately, this dynamic is often reduced to a simplistic game of childish name-calling, with the fans of quirky, low-rated shows maintaining that only old racists and uneducated, NASCAR-loving hicks could ever stomach Two and a Half Men, while those who chuckle at Jon Cryer's antics on those shows are bewildered by the fact that anyone could find the absurd, self-referential antics of the Greendale study group funny. It's oddly reminiscent of the "dialogue" (read: angry shouting) between the pansy-assed, liberal, Obama-supporting commie bastards and the prejudiced, out-of-touch, heartless capitalist pigs. (In the immortal words of Liz Lemon, "Yeah, suck it, I do read the paper!")

A disconnect between what is considered "good" by the critical establishment and what is popular is nothing new. There's a reason that the most critically acclaimed movies of 2010 (ranked by Rotten Tomatoes) were Waste Land, a documentary about a Brazilian artist photographing garbage pickers, and Into Eternity, a "meditation on human folly, punctuated by philosophical and historical references" by conceptual artist Michael Madsen. They may have gotten 100% good reviews, but the words "conceptual artist" make me want nothing more than to watch robots smash each other in Transformers 5: Planet of the Earth (once again, with much thanks to Liz Lemon). And it's not just The New Yorker passing out these reviews; the Philadelphia Enquirer and The Washington Post were among the publications that endorsed these films.

To be fair, Waste Land and Into Eternity are probably great films. They're just not appealing to a large demographic of people. And, as much as it pains me to say it, the self-referential absurdity of Community and the inside-showbiz jokes of 30 Rock might not interest a lot of people either. I like to think that if more people tuned in to these shows they'd find the following they deserve, and I could certainly be right about that. Of course, the three people who saw Into Eternity probably think the same thing, and they could be right too. So let's not be too mean to the people who choose to watch Two and a Half Men; they might just be turned off by descriptions of the show as "absurdist" and "experimental" in the same way hearing "conceptual artist" makes me want to curl up on my couch and watch reruns of Saturday Night Live until my brain rots. And even if I love Community and you love Rules of Engagement, we can probably agree on one thing: a half-hour comedy, no matter which comedy it is, is still more consequential than Jersey Shore can ever hope to be. Oh, wait...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Parents" just don't understand*

Blythe Danner and Richard Schiff as Reagan's parents in "Parents."
Up All Night started out promising, but a little rough. The show hadn't quite figured out what tone it wanted to strike, veering between the realism of Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) learning how to cope with parenthood and the zany, 30 Rock-esque antics of Maya Rudolph's Ava. Last night's "Parents" still suffered a bit from sudden shifts in tone but, despite a few flat moments in the Ava storyline, the episode was a great example of how the series is coming into its own.

"Parents" was excellent in large part because the episode dealt with a relatable subject: the tense, regressive relationships that often spring up between parents and their adult children. Tension between parents and children is hardly something new on TV - I talked recently about the toxic parents of The Big Bang Theory - but Up All Night, as usual, presented a lovely, nuanced portrayal of Reagan's relationship with her mother Angie (Blythe Danner). Watching Reagan act like a teenager whenever her mother appeared was not only funny, but an honest depiction recognizable by anyone who has been held to a curfew when home from college. Reagan diving behind the couch and sobbing into a pillow that no one understands her were hilarious, but they were also instantly identifiable to anyone who has been in a similar situation.

It helped that Danner's portrayal of Angie showed that she was a problematic woman without being unsympathetic. The character could have been Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, but rather than playing her as an ice queen Danner chose to play her as a somewhat selfish and pompous, but still caring, mother. It helped that her relationship with her husband, Richard Schiff's Dean, was warm and relatable. Dean's gentle ribbing of his wife's continued insistence that the party thrown for her book release was "embarassing" was a beautiful example of the way this show understands the interaction between long-term couples. This understanding comes up in Chris and Reagan's relationship as well. The moment when Chris points out to Reagan that the reason no one understands her is because she's talking into a pillow is both funny and comforting, showing the ease of the couple's relationship and the way they rely on each other.

My favorite moment in the episode, however, had nothing to do with either Reagan or Angie. That's not because I didn't love their character arc, but because Arnett and Schiff did such a beautiful job with the scene where Chris confides in Dean about his newfound fear of death (the result of an expiration date on a lifetime subscription to Sports Illustrated). Dean, a therapist, doesn't try to counsel Chris or talk him out of his fear. Instead, he opens up and, in a lovely moment of catharsis for both characters, confesses that death terrifies him, and reveals his solution: alcohol. The scene is played for laughs, but neither Arnett nor Schiff goes over-the-top with their performances, imbuing the moment with a real poignancy.

As usual, the rough spots in the episode were centered around Ava. Her scenes weren't all bad - in particular, her reminder to Reagan that her mother could be a lot worse was great, and Rudolph's delivery sold the line about her mother's partner, a jazz drummer called the Captain - but her complete inability to remember anything about her crew seemed overly detached, even for Ava. Dale's death montage was certainly funny, with its repetition of the one picture of the dearly departed sound technician and shots of his W-4 form, but Ava's insistence on singing over the montage seemed oddly tone-deaf (figuratively, not literally). "Parents" showcased how well the show can mix humor with realism; if only it could figure out how to mix Chris and Reagan with Ava.

*I apologize for the forced Will Smith reference. It's late, and it just happened that way.