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Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. A Living Wage” (1.04)

Terry (Paul Campbell) shines a lamp in Peter's (Ryan Bellevile) face during performance review.

A review of the show’s fourth episode, written by Fraser Young and directed by Graeme Lynch, after the jump…

Nothing in “A Living Wage” was necessarily bad, but it didn’t quite reach the heights of last week’s “Girls”, nor did it reach my hopes for when I heard the premise. Terry encountering all of the little things Peter knows about the store and comic book culture could have been a strong, joke-filled and character-based plot, and it would have been hilarious to see Terry slowly crumbling over the sheer number of small things he didn’t even know Peter was responsible for. That’s what the plot seemed to be going for, but ultimately it all came down to some creepy kids and an annoying delivery man, neither of which were particularly funny. There was so much unused potential, and it could have done some work in showing why Peter, annoying as he is, is crucial to the store’s success for more reasons than he’s irreparably messed up the store’s sorting bins.

This one also suffered greatly from a lack of Dan and Rayna, when this kind of plot would be perfect for these two as antagonists: having your landlord breathing down your neck for some info that only Peter knows, and having Dan engineer yet another plot against them while Terry’s already fumbling through the day without Peter, would have greatly increased the pace of this one. I have to think that production issues led to their characters not being included.

The pace needed to be quicker, and I think the best thing would have been to cut the comedically-limp cupcake story. It gave Bernie the moment where she accidentally drugs the entire store worth of customers, but it also ate almost a minute and a half of story at the beginning that could have been used to complicate and expand the Peter vs. Terry plot. The teaser was great, but I can’t help but think it belonged to another episode, one where the cupcake runner fit more organically into the episode as a whole. The episode spent half the episode on their fight over management, which was enjoyable, but left only about 10 minutes to cram in the entire Peter vs. Terry story and work  on the Bernie plot. So, there were places it could have been tightened up to get more out of the premise.

The jokes were pretty hit or miss here. On one hand, you had more time being devoted to unfunny gags like the sleep heroics runner and the long, long fantasy sequence of Peter making his own clothes, or one-note runners like the cupcakes. There were the aforementioned obstacles Terry faced as well, the riddling delivery man and the creepy kids. However, there were some great moments in here too: the performance review, Peter’s “Scotty” impression, and Terry performing psychological warfare from Sassitudes. So the jokes weren’t the entire issue, just the pacing of the Terry plot in the back half of the episode.

Despite the writing letting this one down a little, I have to say this show continually impresses me at how much the cast can do to keep the episodes enjoyable. Paul Campbell and Ryan Belleville, when they were onscreen together, were very fun to watch. The scene where they first debate the pay gap between them was particularly standout, not because it was funnier than anything else, but because they nailed their dynamic. That is what keeps a show going when it has a slow week, and Almost Heroes has it, something few shows do this early.

So though the charm of the cast carried this one, as well as some great moments in the Bernie/Candi subplot, a bit of a fall-off from “Girls”, though this was still a good episode. And much of that praise belongs to the Bernie side of the plot.

The Bernie/Candi dynamic has always been troubling for me because you could see how much it was eroding Bernie’s health and self-esteem, and yet the lines Candi was given, and Meghan Heffern‘s wonderful readings, made me laugh every time Candi spoke. The show’s funniest portions made me feel like a bit of an asshole, which was uncomfortable. This episode essentially throws that dynamic on its head by having Bernie be vastly, vastly overpaid, while Candi makes a paltry living. It turns their one-sided power struggle into a give and take: Bernie suffers the beatdowns from Candi, fully knowing now that she makes over twice as much as Candi, robbing her manager of the power to truly belittle her. It practically turns Candi’s put-downs into part of the service Bernie performs at work.

And while ‘sad Bernie’ was a font of comedy, confident Bernie was just as funny – and sad Bernie gave us the tea of losers in “Wendell” (1.02), while confident (or at least faux-confident) Bernie was at the centre of both “Girls” (1.03) and her work here, some of her best work.  Watching Bernie here, enjoying her high paycheque by getting revenge on Candi, was delicious. It also gave us a great, character-revealing moment when Terry hired Bernie: as you could see in previous episodes, Bernie really is a lazy worker who takes way too many breaks. It doesn’t make her any less likeable (Lauren Ash makes her fun in every scene), but it does make her angst a little more ridiculous. And watching Candi struggle with employees who were less and less susceptible to her taunts, culminating in one who completely defanged her and made more money, was wonderful.

Solid episode, not quite hitting its potential, but still a lot of fun.

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  1. […] Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. A Living Wage” (1.04) Nothing in “A Living Wage” was necessarily bad, but it didn’t quite reach the heights of last week’s “Girls”, nor did it reach my hopes for when I heard the premise. Terry encountering all of the little things Peter knows about the store and comic book culture could have been a strong, joke-filled and character-based plot, and it would have been hilarious to see Peter slowly crumbling over the sheer number of small things he didn’t even know Peter was responsible for. That’s what the plot seemed to be going for, but ultimately it all came down to some creepy kids and an annoying delivery man, neither of which were particularly funny. There was so much unused potential, and it could have done some work in showing why Peter, annoying as he is, is crucial to the store’s success for more reasons than he’s irreparably messed up the store’s sorting bins. Read more. […]



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