FOX has rejiggered their Tuesday night comedy lineup, so perhaps, on this evening, you turned into The Grinder for the first time. If you were lost during “The Olyphant in the Room,” and you certainly may have been confused by the presence of Timothy Olyphant, that would be a shame, because this was, perhaps, the best episode of the show thus far. It was as ridiculous and absurd as anything the show has done, and this is a show that does absurdity as well as any network sitcom. This week’s episode tackles that oft-seen trope of procedurals where people who aren’t cops are actively participating in criminal investigations. Mitch Grinder did it all the time, so, naturally, Dean assumes he can do it in real life. Plus, he’s got to get Claire away from that damned Timothy Olyphant.
That’s not the end of the meta humor, though. Additionally, a reporter from the local paper is following Stew (some may spell it “Stu,” but his name is Stewart, not Stuart, you monsters) to write a story about him. It’s the story of a simple man practicing simple law. Naturally, the story becomes about Dean. Dean caters such attention by turning a case of vandalism into a manhunt. Sure, Stew and Claire may want to just find an airtight alibi for their client, but maybe the gang can smoke this vandal out. Also, maybe it’s Olyphant. After all, these crimes didn’t start until he got into town.
The action and antics is, front to back, wonderful. When things devolve into Dean throwing a brick through Todd’s windshield because it proved… something… you know it’s an excellent episode of The Grinder. Sure, the writer’s story may end up being about delusional Dean standing in the way of Stew practicing simple law. Sure, Olyphant and Claire are still dating. However, Dean saw his brother jump in on his harebrained scheme to catch the vandal in an attempt to change the story, and he was still proud of the article, because it made his brother look good.
Oh, also Dean’s plan involved him going on Jimmy Kimmel Live to try and cajole the vandal into striking again. Nice.
The Grinder remains a singular voice in the network comedy world, and what a wonderful voice it is. Yes, it spends a fair amount of time commenting on itself, but it never feels like too much navel gazing, and it never gets in the way of the (ridiculous) storytelling. Timothy Olyphant may have replaced Dean as the Grinder, but he can’t replace Dean in our hearts.
Chris Morgan is not the author of THE book on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but he is the author of A book on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He’s also on Twitter.