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Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. Girls” (1.03)

Bernie (Lauren Ash) and Terry (Paul Campbell) sit in a used car on a stakeout.

If you missed the episode, it’s available streaming on the Showcase website. A review of the charming Canadian comedy’s third episode, written by Ryan & Jason Belleville and directed by Shawn Alex Thompson, after the jump…

This show knows that the golden trio is Terry (Paul Campbell), Bernie (Lauren Ash) and Peter (Ryan Belleville). The rest of the cast is greatly talented and have fantastic chemistry with each other, but this is the Bermuda triangle of the show’s comedy: I’d laugh even from these three sitting in the parking lot getting drunk together. (See: the pilot.) So after sectioning Bernie off to develop Rayna last week, she’s returned to spending the bulk of her time with Terry, and that definitely pays dividends.

When Peter gets a date, and innocently rubs it in Terry’s face, Terry is suddenly very worried about his mojo. Watching him get more and more desperate, as Bernie eggs him on, is wonderful. After seeing Bernie trampled day in and out by Candi, even if she’s being terrible and manipulative, it was a bit of a joy to see her twist him around her finger. Especially as all of her manipulations constantly backfired on her.

And offering the episode a strong character frame offered for some great scenes with the rest of the cast:

Terry: Rayna, I can’t believe I haven’t asked you out until now!
Rayna: Nope, you ask me out every day. Several times a day. In fact, this is the second time in this conversation you’ve asked me out.

This works not only because Campbell and Athena Karkanis have such a great dynamic, but because its roots lie in what we’ve already seen established. He does ask her out every time they talk, and she effortlessly shoots him down (and as we learned last episode, her biggest secret is that she’s genuinely not interested in him). And introducing Dan into the picture and having him watch Terry strike out makes it even more priceless.

And as a sidenote, I want to say how pleased I am they haven’t hinted at a Terry/Rayna romance. In real life, everyone has people they’re interested in that are absolutely not interested back, even main characters, and tha’;s a dynamic you never really see on TV. They’ve nicely closed the door on Terry and Rayna (because one is obviously uninterested), while leaving another open for Terry and Bernie (who they go to great pains to show that he just hasn’t noticed her, in that sense, yet).

The main plot moves along wonderfully, with Terry hitting on an elderly woman who, upon learning Terry is the proprietor of a comic book store, hurries home. Then, it digs back into its bag of overused comedy tropes and pulls out my least favourite: the headset date. Terry, forced by honour or threat of ‘Super Nurple’ to give Peter his date, decides that he and Bernie will coach him through it. And while the use of this device is merited by character (Terry’s pride is caught up in being able to talk to a woman, and this allows him to even while not at the date), and isn’t as horrifyingly bad as it is elsewhere, it’s still a bit disappointing after the show’s been having its best episode yet.

(And the less I say about the ‘surprise twist’, the better. Gentle transphobia is still transphobia, and like the waterfall of ‘secret penis’ jokes How I Met Your Mother has had over the years, this one left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.)

But the chemistry gets you through those scenes, and with the conclusion of seeing what a Super Nurple is, the plot still remains the show’s best so far, allowing the natural chemistry and banter of the ensemble to do the work to keep a cliched plot from derailing it.

For the second week in a row, though, we’d had subplots featuring a castmate going one step too far out of desperation to resolve an issue. Last week, it was all of Bernie’s ridiculous (and occasionally terrifying) shenanigans in order to impress Rayna. Here, Rayna gets the crazy stick, when Crystal accuses her of folding under Dan’s bullying. Though the hammer scene works very well, establishing Rayna’s string of bad luck and using her enjoyable interplay with Boyd, it builds up to a step-too-far conclusion of Rayna costing Dan $10,000 over a communication error. I like that it establishes that Rayna’s not completely as cool as she seems (as she hinted when Bernie was showering her with praise last week), but…

Basically, the show has a realm of reality it stick within, as all comedies do. Comedy comes from things being unexpected and over-the-top. The big issue is, the main plots each week have kept everything, barring last-minute twists, to a pretty realistic scale. Even the signature punchline in the first episode was extremely unlikely, but not impossible. However, both Bernie’s actions last week and Rayna’s this week felt so over the line that while much of the audience probably laughed at the awkwardness, I just squirmed and noted how I couldn’t believe real people, in the scale of reality established by the show, would do that. Rayna’s plot here isn’t quite as big an issue as Bernie’s last week, but it is a bit of a warning for future episodes.

But! The chemistry between all players was sizzling tonight. Every member of this ensemble fits right in with the rest, even ‘disconnected’ ones like Rayna and Dan. Even Peter, who rides the edge of irritating, was really fun to watch. And the comedic energy between Paul Campbell and Lauren Ash, showcased so effectively here, was on fire.

In an earlier review, I compared Almost Heroes to a more successful Dan For Mayor, but I think I was wrong. The closest show tonally to Heroes is actually an American sitcom: Cougar Town. Both shows have an excellent cast with wonderful chemistry, and where the interrelationships between the characters are usually better than the episodic plots. Jokes feel somewhat tonally similar too, like Super Nurple vs. Penny Can. While it’s not a complete fit – Cougar Town relies much more on ensemble scenes and cutaways, and Almost Heroes has two antagonist characters within their ensemble, plus the complete difference thematically – the comedic tone is very similar, and might explain why I connected so readily to this show, which had a bit of a shaky pilot writing-wise. The chemistry here is that of a show closing its first 22-episode season, not three episodes in, and that’s its greatest victory so far.

The best the show has been yet. Sad that the season, at eight episodes, is so short. I’m really crossing my fingers for a renewal for a second season – and a longer second season, at that.

What did you think?

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  1. […] Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. Girls” (1.03) This show knows that the golden trio is Terry (Paul Campbell), Bernie (Lauren Ash) and Peter (Ryan Belleville). The rest of the cast is greatly talented and have fantastic chemistry with each other, but this is the Bermuda triangle of the show’s comedy: I’d laugh even from these three sitting in the parking lot getting drunk together. (See: the pilot.) So after sectioning Bernie off to develop Rayna last week, she’s returned to spending the bulk of her time with Terry, and that definitely pays dividends. Read more. […]



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