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'Mulaney' recap: Patriot acts

Season 1 | Episode 6 | “Patriot Acts” | Aired Nov 23, 2014

It seems like it only gets harder and harder to write about Mulaney each week. Though it hasn’t been canceled yet, this episode marks the show’s official move from a 9:30 post-Family Guy time slot to a 7:30 pre-Simpsons time slot. It’s struggling, and Mulaney himself knows it—he’s been posting endearing tweets and making adorable talk show appearances for weeks.


It’s torturous watching such a likable and genuinely talented dude flail with a mediocre show. It sucks to watch someone with such strong comedic voice fall so short of his own potential. At this point, tuning in every week is basically an experiment in masochism.

Many will see Mulaney‘s new time slot as a downgrade, and a sure sign of imminent cancellation, but from an optimist’s point of view, it’s a chance to reach a new audience. You don’t often get a second chance at a first impression, and in some ways, tonight was Mulaney‘s second chance. Unfortunately, in a lot of ways, the show totally blew it. Again.

“Patriot Acts” is an episode filled with hilarious concepts and dreadful execution. When Mulaney, Motif, and Jane encounter a marine on a plane ride home from a wedding, they each vow to do something to give back to the U.S. military. Motif and Mulaney decide to participate in a USO show, and Jane decides to date the officer.

But the actual relationship between Jane and Chad, the marine, ends up being more of a plot point than an actual relationship, and it makes the episode’s story structure incredibly transparent. The relationship is never really explored or even talked about outside of its very beginning and end—it basically acts as an excuse to get the marine’s adorable three-legged army dog into the mix. This is a shortcoming of the show as a whole, and the way it handles Nasim Pedrad’s character. Rather than give her a chance for comedic characterization, she’s reduced to a plot device.


Tying into the night’s patriotism theme, Lou also reminisces about his own memories of war—or at least his memories of performing improv for soldiers at USO shows. Lou’s character is actually one of the best-defined in the show: We know who he is and what he’s about, and there’s specificity in the way he is written that wrings humor out of generally comedically sparse scripts. This episode’s entire story line about Lou’s disastrous improv show was hilarious in theory, but the execution felt awkward and forced. Martin Short is simply miscast in this role, playing it too broadly and earnestly for Mulaney’s dry, sarcastic humor to really ping.

This episode and almost every episode of Mulaney has at least a few genuinely funny ideas lurking underneath the bland and/or misplaced performances of its leads. (This week, the board of ideas for how to solve the missing dog problem and Andre having an exact replica of Mulaney’s apartment on hand come to mind.) But it’s getting hard not to worry that perhaps this isn’t the kind of show that just needs room to grow. Maybe there are flaws in its very base and structure that are holding it back from becoming something worth watching. Mulaney and Martin Short lack chemistry. Zack Pearlman is too annoying for his own good. Seaton Smith and Nasim Pedrad are underused.

If the foundation isn’t strong, there’s no chance for fun decoration. Even if Mulaney’s hilarious and weird sense of humor is bubbling beneath the surface of every episode, it won’t come to fruition until Mulaney can establish its baseline elements. Mulaney needs to be reconfigured to optimize its channels for humor; it’s not too late to turn the show around, but it’ll take some big changes.

Mulaney airs Sundays at 7:30/6:30C on FOX.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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