The Husband:

So right now, ABC’s Ugly Betty is on a mini-hiatus in order to allow Samantha Who? to finish its second season, as well as let In The Motherhood go through its entire six-episode first season. (Taking the FOX model of trying out six eps of a sitcom is actually pretty smart business, even if it is for a show that I keep accidentally calling Notes from the Underbelly, which is probably not a good sign.) This allowed me to catch up on the four backlogged Betty episodes that were sitting on my DVR, a pretty simple task considering how easy the show it to watch. But what’s been keeping me invested in this show, and, likewise, what issues do I have with the mini-run?

Matt

I love Matt. I think he’s a great foil for Betty, his relation to her industry allows for a type of romantic interaction missing from her Henry/Gio triangle (Henry worked at Meade, yes, but he was an accountant, so that doesn’t really count.) I think he’s a sweetheart, I think his bits of inner turmoil are entirely founded, and I like the way he is treated like an actual human being and not just a character cipher. When we last checked in on this blog, all we knew was that Matt was a sports journalist and cared very little about fashion. Now, we know he’s actually not only the heir to a disgustingly huge fortune, but he has so many notches on his bedpost that…some clever analogy. (Shut up! This is Ugly Betty.) And now, I think that he’s the best beau ever for Betty. Sorry, Gio fans, but I’m really pulling for Matt to become a major regular. Agree or disagree?

I think we need to talk about this obsession everyone has with this Gio person.

I think we need to talk about this obsession everyone has with this Gio person.

Christine Baranski

As Matt’s overbearing, snobbish and protective mother, Ms. Baranski fell right back into her glorious comfort zone after that appearance on The Big Bang Theory, which still annoys me to no end. She was completely miscast there. Here, she may be typecast, but it’s that wonderful kind of typecasting where it works perfectly. I desire more of her.

Ralph Macchio

He returned in a big way, finally bedding Hilda when she realizes that his clean-cut city councilman image may just be a cover for a badder boy underneath. Between this and Beer League and My Cousin Vinny, as well as his appearance on Broadway as J. Pierrepont Finch in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (taking over for Matthew Broderick when he left the cast in the mid-90s), I don’t know why he doesn’t get more active work, or why he’s barely in films anymore. He still looks effortlessly young, still has the comic timing learned from Mr. Miyagi, and yet still looks like he came from the downtrodden wrong side of the tracks. It’s a good combo. Why can’t he be the “best friend” in an Ed Burns movie?

Bernadette Peters

She was used for about 45 seconds in one episode of the four. This is not proper usage of The Bern. Ultimate fail, UB.

Connor & Molly

So after all that love square madness between Connor, Molly, Daniel and Wilhelmina, Connor just suddenly decides to just up and leave in one episode, suddenly desiring to embezzle money from Meade Publications as well as try to steal Willy’s baby and leave the country. This twist came out of nowhere, was not in tune with the rest of his character, and made little to no sense. All it did was save the money it would take to pay the actor to show up to work. That’s the only thing I can figure out. It’s a shame that UB is having trouble keeping story arcs going this season, because the fact that they get completely abandoned every four episodes or so makes me not want to invest as much energy in this series as I assume they’d like. And giving Molly borderline inoperable cancer has, so far, been completely pointless as well. But at least she only disappeared for one episode and came back. The same can’t be said for Connor, despite showing up for a few seconds in a dream sequence.

Steven R. Schirripa

Eh, get a load of this guy here, eh?

Eh, get a load of this guy here, eh?

Between his appearance here as a competitive TV chef, SLOTAT‘s Sausage King and his TV food show that I’ve never heard of (thanks Wikipedia!), Steven R. Schirripa has effectively changed his typecast from mob family comic relief (Casino and The Sopranos) into being the go-to guy for any role revolving around food. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a shift like this, so it’s good that he’s a very amicable actor, both onscreen and on talk shows. It’s tough to not love that face.

Christina

I know that actress Ashley Jensen is on her way out at the end of the season and they have something big planned for her character, but that doesn’t mean that giving her about five lines over four episodes is allowable. She’s definitely in the top three best characters of the show, but you wouldn’t know it from the scripts. Fail.

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The Wife:

We’ve already met Sheldon’s mom, a traditional Southern mom who had no expectations for Sheldon to excel academically. Leonard’s mother, guest star Christine Baranski, is the exact opposite. Leonard’s parents are both academics who write about their own sex lives (or lack thereof) from the perspectives of anthropology and neuroscience. Clearly, Beverly Hoffsteader’s neuroscientific perspective on sex for procreation is the only paper worth reading. She’s also a research psychologist, apparently, because her visit to Los Angeles is filled with instances of her holding a mirror to Leonard and his friends, pointing out that Penny’s desire to be an actress stems from the fact that her father never loved her because she wasn’t a boy; that Raj and Howard both suffer from a fear of intimacy with women that results in their respective selective mutism (which she finds very interesting) and residence at home (less interesting, as an adult Jewish male who still lives at home with his mother is actually quite common), and with which they cope by forming an ersatz homosexual relationship with one another; and that Leonard himself, despite his many accomplishments, can never live up to his mother’s expectations. Unlike his younger brother who is a law professor at Harvard and his older sister who is very close to curing diabetes, Leonard has no original research to his name, choosing instead to replicate others’ experiments. He can’t even make Bev’s tea correctly.

Sheldon, of course, loves Bev. In fact, he wishes that Bev had been his mother, praising the highly academic environment in which she raised her children and wistfully wishing that he’d had Leonard’s childhood filled with numerous EEGs, remarking, “If I wanted an EEG, I had to glue my own electrodes to my head.” As Sheldon grows closer to Bev, Leonard takes refuge in Penny’s apartment and the two of them cry about their insecurities, do a lot of shots and, eventually, wind up in bed together, until Leonard ruins the moment by talking about how their time in bed together is fueled solely by unresolved Oedipal and Electral desires. Penny kicks him out. If only he had listened to his mother’s earlier advice:

“If you want to have intercourse with that girl, find out what kind of cologne her father wears.” – Beverly Hoffsteader

Im betting Pennys dad was a Stetson man.

I'm betting Penny's dad was a Stetson man.

Even though the introduction of Leonard’s mother as a destructive force is clearly hackneyed sitcom trope, I liked this episode a lot. I laughed more than I have at a number of BBT episodes, and most of that was because of Baranski and her delivery. I’m used to seeing her play oversexed divas, so to see her so completely out of character was a treat.

Other funny moments:

  • Raj rocking out super hardcore to “Under the Bridge,” a song we all know should be way more toned down than that.
  • “Why else would you grow a pancreas in a teenage gibbon?” – Beverly, about Leonard’s sister’s research
  • Sheldon’s response to Bev’s outing of Howard and Raj’s “ersatz homosexual relationship:” “You went to the comic book store without me?”
  • Bev and Sheldon doing karaoke, which is one of the most terrifyingly funny things I’ve seen on this show. Knowing how well Baranski can actually sing, doing so that badly must have been quite the exercise for her.


The Husband:

This is going to continue being the one show on which my wife and I disagree, because while I really dig Christine Baranski – I was a huge fan of Cybill – I found almost every moment she was onscreen completely obnoxious. There’s funny annoying and then there’s annoying annoying, and I’m not sure if Chuck Lorre and his writers know the difference. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, that this is just such a strange sitcom world to enter, but I think most of the laughs had to do with Baranski herself and not the cliché bullshit lines that she was fed.

On the other hand, I really liked the Leonard-Penny story, that their relationship has advanced enough that him getting kicked out of her bed isn’t such a big deal anymore – it would have been last season – and that they’ve become good enough friends to just get over bizarre drunken incidents. Or, in other words, I felt like Leonard was actually a character tonight and not just the straight man to Jim Parsons’ lunacy that he usually is.

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