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Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. Wendell” (1.02)

Candi (Meghan Heffern) and Bernie (Lauren Ash) discuss Bernie's girl friends, or lack thereof, in Sassitude.

A review of the new comedy’s second episode, written by Jason & Ryan Belleville and directed by Graeme Lynch, after the jump…

Episode two pulls back on the ‘nerd shorthand’ that frustrated me so much, and gives Ryan Belleville as Peter some charming moments, which makes episode two a much-needed improvement from the pilot. Unfortunately, Peter hands off the ‘ridiculous’ stick to Lauren Ash‘s Bernie, whose awkward desperation goes from cute to eye-rolling in a matter of minutes.

The plot with the boys was plenty of fun, mixing a healthy amount of business, nerdity and personal stakes and giving the two plenty of chances to bounce off one another. And by making Peter dorky, but not a subject of ridicule, the character is a lot funnier. See his ‘villainous’ laugh, or his confrontation with Francis. He’s a little pathetic, but not overwhelmingly so, and that makes him more enjoyable. And Paul Campbell is still a fantastic straight man here.

And Dan (Dave Hemstad) is brilliantly used here, in just the right amount: a couple of confrontations with the boys, in which he always has the upper hand, a confrontation with Francis that is deeply amusing, and gets his just desserts in the end when Francis’ angry uncle comes calling.

In the other plot, Candi (Meghan Heffern) and Boyd (Colin Mochrie) are used sparingly but well, with Candi getting in just enough shots to explain Bernie’s sad desperation, and Boyd being just on the right side of ‘weird’ to fit in. And Athena Karnkanis gets just the right amount of material here to cement Rayna as a character: the confident, beautiful and smart landlord whose life looks great to everyone else, but is still deeply aware that she’s landlady of a crappy little plaza with a boss who treats her badly. She’s very likeable, and has a great dynamic so far with each character she’s encountered: her growing friendship with Bernie, her antagonism with Candi, and her constant blowing-off of Terry.

The one who really suffers here is Bernie (Lauren Ash). In the first half of the episode, her desire to be friends with Rayna is cute, even as she stumbles all over herself. Some may have found the ridiculous heights she goes to in pursuit of Rayna funny, but I just winced the entire time, bouncing alternately between, “Bernie, don’t, you’re going to scare her off!” (the writers’ intended reaction) and “No person would actually do this. What is going on!?” (I’m guessing not the writers’ intention). The only reason it was watchable is that Ash is extremely charming, and her friend-chemistry with Karkanis is excellent. Thankfully, the show brought them back to a realistic tone in their final scene, as Rayna tears Candi down and reignites her friendship with Bernie.

All in all, a charming second episode that improves on the pilot. I’m officially a fan.

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