8.5

Sirens Review: “Sub-Primal Fears”

(Episode 2.13)

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<i>Sirens</i> Review: &#8220;Sub-Primal Fears&#8221;

It’s a shame that the writers of Sirens took this long to realize the comic potential of sticking Billy and Brian together in the same space. The two are perfect for each other, both with their child-like glee at the world around them and binary, almost autistic perception of right and wrong.

Instead of lamenting the fact that this pairing hasn’t been tried before, let’s instead delight in the memory of those two playing video games in the basement “apartment” where Brian lives (he’s being looked after by his parents still) and giddily eating licorice. And the moment when the two decided to move in together as a means of quelling Billy’s loneliness after getting dumped by Maeve and Brian’s panic at being on his own for the first time. Hell, if this series doesn’t get picked up for a third season, I encourage Kevin Bigley and Josh Segarra to take this show to the internet and let these characters live on just a little bit longer in a Perfect Strangers-like YouTube series.

Beyond this great meeting of the minds, what we got in tonight’s episode was a reminder of how entrenched our personalities can be as adults, and how we lash out when it is challenged, while also realizing the good that can come from being challenged by people we care about.

As with many Sirens episodes, the writers present this theme in the form of a patient. In this case it is a gent who refuses to get a festering leg wound treated because of his fear of hospitals. Naturally, it’s a character played by Wayne Knight, drawing up memories of Newman, his similarly stubborn Seinfeld role. Here, he’s willing to let maggots eat away at the dead flesh and cut off all the left legs of his pants to survive. But it’s his friend that finally pull the trigger on dialing 911 and getting him some much-needed help. Lo and behold, he adores the treatment at the hospital and, probably, starts feeling better for the first time in a long time.

The person who lashes out the most when her comfy little worldview is threatened is Maeve. Poor Billy finally opens up about his fantasies of seeing her pregnant and them living the nuclear family dream, and she freaks. It sends Billy into a weeping spiral and to Johnny and Theresa’s apartment where he cooks them eggs florentine and Dutch apple pancakes. As nice as it is, Johnny forces himself to try to get the two to reconcile…which of course they do. That’s in the bylaws of American sitcom television.

But the point is that Maeve has to meet her man halfway. She lays down the law that she doesn’t want to hear about these pregnancy fantasies anymore, but she also understands how much that idea means to Billy. So, she’s willing to look the other way and keep dating this great guy. Adult compromises, people. They ain’t fun, but they can be completely necessary for our survival.

If my last write up didn’t emphasize this enough, tonight’s final episode of Season Two might just be the end of the road for Sirens. No news is potentially good news, but at the upfronts for USA Network, they announced two new series, and the returns of Suits, Royal Pains, and several other of their original shows. No mention of Sirens, however.

You can see, though, why a show like this might have found it hard to connect with TV viewers. Their biggest gets as far as guest stars were Jean Smart, a cast member of The Sopranos, and Newman. And their narrative choices found them pushing against the formula of your common network sitcom, but also not wanting to get into the territory mapped out by shows like Arrested Development or Kimmy Schmidt, where self-referential humor and joking nostalgia held sway. Audiences these days, for good or for ill, like to be either fed comfort food, or be shaken out of their food comas by something.

Sirens was never that kind of show, though. It remains a great working class comedy in the spirit of Taxi or Party Down, but with a singular voice that wasn’t really being presented on TV until its arrival last year. And now that it’s likely leaving us, I wonder what’s going to fill that void in the worlds of network TV or basic cable. Right now, the pickings are looking mighty slim.

As I said earlier about part of the show, we shouldn’t look back on this probable short run of the series with regrets. Let’s instead wish the cast members well for their collective future (Michael Mosley and Josh Segarra have already filmed parts for some high profile comedy movies set to come out over the next few months) and just calmly wait for Sirens to build up a cult following via the world of streaming services. For us lucky people who were on board from the get go, it’s our chance to lord something over our friends and family by boasting that we were with the show from the beginning.


Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

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