Keong Sim

Dead to Me (2019) s02e07 – If Only You Knew

Wow, more of the, no, really, you like Christina Applegate and Sam McCarthy as a mother-son comedic pair. He’s quietly sullen and she’s loudly obscene. Please laugh.

McCarthy is a leech on this season, frankly. Thanks to Natalie Morales and new James Marsden, “Dead to Me” has a new lease on life—is that a no pun intended type statement—and the season one leftovers, for the most part, are still dragging it down in the seventh episode of season two.

Applegate and McCarthy generically and insincerely bond while taking data for her stop sign proposal.

Anyway. One of the main plots of the episode involve Applegate telling Cardellini to break up with Morales, even though Cardellini and Morales are in capital L love after only a few days together.

And, why wouldn’t they be, especially since there’s a “twist” in the identity of Morales’s ex-girlfriend, still-roommate, who has a somewhat amusing awkwardness showdown with Cardellini.

The other main plot has Applegate and Cardellini volunteering to organize a vigil for still missing old Marsden as a favor to overwhelmed new Marsden.

At the vigil, we get to meet Marsdens’ mom, Frances Conroy, who’s played as a tragic figure. Also there’s no dad, which it seemed like there wasn’t, but then new Marsden kept referring to parents plural… and Jere Burns threatens Cardellini at the vigil so I was thinking Burns was the dad….

But it’s never cleared up here. Because we’ve got to get to Keong Sim making an unexpectedly welcome return (Sim was never bad last season, just badly used) to say some words at the vigil before they kick off a slideshow, which McCarthy happens to see because he likes new Marsden so much but doesn’t want to admit liking a non-toxic male, and recognizes the missing Marsden’s car.

Plus Applegate and new Marsden make out, which is both creepy and unfair (heartbroken over Morales, Cardellini peeps their romantic beach make-out).

The episode also introduces “WWJD”—as in “What Would Jen Do” or “What Would Judy Do” because it took them seventeen episodes to realize their characters have the same first letter in their first names.

Doing a Jen (Applegate) is getting shit-faced no matter what the time of day. Doing a Judy (Cardellini) is being a good person no matter what the situation.

The show would be a lot more fun if they’d classified those tropes sooner.

Also Jennifer Getzinger’s direction is a step down from the season two usual. Not as bad as first season, but still incapable of finding a good reaction shot.

Dead to Me (2019) s01e05 – I’ve Gotta Get Away

This episode’s set an indeterminate time since the previous, with Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini poolside in Palm Springs, taking it easy. Except they’re on a retreat with their grief group—the one other group members we see in the episode are the leader, Pastor Wayne (Keong Sim) and Telma Hopkins.

Cardellini and Applegate aren’t going to do anything with the grief conference, until Applegate decides she’s going to knock boots with hot guy Steve Howey no matter what it takes, even sitting through a presentation from Sim. And Cardellini goes to a miscarriage group, which confirms her stories about the multiple miscarriages for the first time. There’s a baby’s room at James Marsden’s but… the show still hasn’t explained how the miscarriage flashback fits in with the more consequential flashbacks.

Things take unexpected turns when Howey turns out not to be the stud Applegate’s looking for and Cardellini, who’s not interested in a convention hookup, meets soulful mourner Brandon Scott (after Scott sings the Cars’s Drive at karaoke) and gets romantic, leaving Applegate to fend for herself. And leads to Applegate having a come to Jesus moment, which is not a particularly good come to Jesus moment (and happens offscreen).

Abe Sylvia’s script is… eh. Guess Sylvia’s a better director for the show than writer. Episode director Minkie Spiro brings back the trying way too hard composition, which is a bummer.

Sylvia’s also got a lot of gay jokes. For Applegate. She’s drunk and making a bunch of gay jokes and then saying the equivalent of “not that there’s anything wrong with it.” It just makes Applegate seem like a jerk instead of a cynic.

She does get a good scene with Sim, finally. Who knew Sim would have good scenes.

And Hopkins gets to karaoke. Applegate and Cardellini are both surprised she can sing, which seems weird because I’d think Thelma Hopkins can sing but maybe that’s just because Thelma Hopkins can do anything.

Also, I’m pretty sure if the episode passes Bechdel, it’s on a technicality. Though Applegate having two sons to fret over kind of limits.

And the ending—with Cardellini trying to get new beau Scott (a police detective) to investigate Applegate’s husband’s death seems a little much. “Dead to Me” usually gets away with its little much but this one might be too much little much. It’s going to require one hell of a scene from Cardellini and the writers (and director) someday.

Dead to Me (2019) s01e01

The currently strangest thing, one episode into “Dead To Me”—not counting director Amy York Rubin’s pointlessly pensive shot composition, which just distracts in a thirty minute “sitcom”—is how the show handles the humor. Outside the cold open, which has lead Christina Applegate short with neighbor Suzy Nakamura (Applegate’s husband has died and Nakamura is bringing over food and can’t quite figure out the condolences), all the humor is left to the supporting cast at Applegate’s support group.

And it’s a great bunch of supporting cast to do humor, no complaints; Telma Hopkins, Edward Fordham Jr., and Keong Sim are all good at the humor. It’s a strange kind of support group. They meet outside. Sim set the whole thing up after his aunt died falling down stairs to go get him a soda. The episode doesn’t do the traditional support group thing of introducing everyone. It even skips Applegate.

But we do get to know other early forties with it White lady Linda Cardellini, who’s already established as weird because she introduces herself to Applegate while they’re getting the lousy coffee. Cardellini makes oddly inappropriate jokes and not for laughs, rather for Applegate to not laugh at, actually. Cardellini has lost her fiancé.

She and Applegate become phone buddies—they both have insomnia—and bond of “The Facts of Life” reruns. Soon they’re night owl buddies, hanging out in Applegate’s outdoor living room and watching the show, or driving around trying to find cars with Applegate husband-sized damage to the front right bumper.

Everything’s going great—it’s an indeterminate period of time, long enough the rest of the group knows they’re outside friends but not long enough for Applegate to think about introducing Cardellini to her two sons—but then Applegate finds out Cardellini hasn’t been honest about fiancé James Marsden.

The episode ends with some personal growth for Applegate and a major reveal on Cardellini’s level of deception… and her moving in with Applegate because sitcom.

There are some “give me an Emmy” moments for Applegate, like uncontrollably crying with taking a shit, but the show’s very careful never to be insincere. Like Rubin’s direction; whatever she’s doing, it’s not out of insincerity or hurriedness.

It does seem like it was written for a very specific audience—not just “Facts of Life” familiar, but “Kate & Allie,” which is not a realistic reference in 2020—but whatever. It does, however, make a big ask as far as the setup and Cardellini’s relationship with Applegate and it remains to be seen whether or not the show (and creator) Liz Feldman can make it into anything. So far, it’s all still conceptual and potential.

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