Television pilots are as tricky as they are notable. They are the first glimpse we have at any show, at least usually, but they have to try and lay out so much exposition, set the stage and introduce characters. As such, people tend to give pilots a bit of leeway. However, once the pilot is done, it’s just a TV show producing TV episodes, and that’s where Mulaney now lives. They provided a good pilot, but what sort of adventures will the show turn to now?
Well, since John Mulaney is single, he obviously dates people, because that’s what single folks on sitcoms usually do In this case, Mulaney is dating a woman with an unusual job, which works its way into the plot in unexpected ways. You know, like something Jerry Seinfeld might have done on his show. However, when said woman, the titular doula of “The Doula,” is played by the always-welcome Maria Thayer, you’d have to be a monster to complain.
John is very squeamish about childbirth, and can’t stand hearing about the details of Amanda the doula’s profession. At first, this leads to a lot of great fun. Amanda’s story of a particularly rough birth is mirrored by stuff going on at the restaurant, as John gets closer and closer to fainting. Later, the removal of an air conditioning unit stands in for a childbirth, with Motif as the mother, as Amanda helps talk them through the process. This is the kind of clever, funny stuff that Mulaney will hopefully do from week to week. It gives the show a somewhat unique perspective in terms of comedy, and will help it stand out.
Alas, after this event leads John to casually agree to go to a birth with Amanda, this storyline sort of runs out of steam. Jane and Motif try and gear John up to, at the least, keep him from fainting as the episode turns more into an education on the female anatomy than anything else. This stuff just doesn’t land as well, and almost feels like vamping at times. A pristine clockwork storytelling outlet Mulaney is not.
The big conclusion dovetails both stories from this episode together, but the secondary story about Lou turning into a horndog after his gal pal leaves him doesn’t bring much to the table. Martin Short seems to be having fun (more fun than the audience_ but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. It does bring Lou to the childbirth, and, what a twist, it’s his own sexual antics that lead to John fainting. Sure, we get to see the image of Mulaney’s head underwater, but at what price?
So Mulaney is far from perfect, but it still trotted out two good episodes to start its run, and that’s something. The highs are truly high, and the rating for this episode is boosted largely by about five minutes of great television in an episode that was otherwise decent at best. The promise is here for this young comedy. Besides, where else can you see legend of the silver screen Elliott Gould, high at a bris laughing his head off with a big plate of food in his hands? Probably nowhere.
Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)