By David Kramer
The second episode of “Mulaney,” “The Doula,” teaches us two things. First, the show still has potential and is already improving from the pilot. Second, it’s not going to shake comparisons to “Seinfeld” yet.
There are two main plots in this episode, as per sitcom rules. For one, the titular Mulaney is dating a doula (Maria Thayer), but is uncomfortable with her getting into the “nitty gritty” of her work. Second, Mulaney’s boss Lou Cannon is overtly flirting with the contestants on “Celebrity You Guessed It,” and Mulaney needs to control him.
The latter storyline introduces a character named Mary Jo (Fortune Feimster), who works on the show. Feimster is a stand-up comedian and writer, but this does not translate very well into acting. Perhaps she will find her voice in the show.
The Lou Cannon plotline is a little clunky and frankly not very interesting. He is a horny old man and they want him to “empty his tank.” Mulaney replaces his green room food to lower his testosterone, and brings military veterans to the show to replace sorority sisters.
The more entertaining and “Seinfeld”-ian story of the episode was Mulaney’s trouble with the female body. It is a 2014 spin on a classic sitcom trope: men don’t know how women work. In the ‘90s (looking at Seinfeld especially), this would be done by Mulaney not understanding the subtle nuances of his girlfriend’s actions and words. But this episode took a better approach. It’s not that he doesn’t understand women superficially, he literally does not understand how they function. It’s a valuable and funny look at a real issue, and it provides one of the best lines of the episode: “I feel about vaginas the way I do about America. I love it, but every once in a while it does things that disgust me.” “And penises are like North Korea – hilarious but worrisome.” The latter line is from Jane, who is much better in episode two, providing the exposition for Mulaney’s lack of knowledge.
I would still like to see more about Motif, who is in most of the episode but doesn’t contribute too much. I am also noticing a pattern in Oscar’s appearances: he shows up in the second half of the episode and talks to Mulaney one-on-one, allowing for a rehash of the episode’s plot and a new perspective. He is essentially Mulaney’s mentor, but I want to see Oscar beyond this role too.
– Andre being the “Miracle of Life” baby is a ridiculous but entertaining reveal.
– Another good line, from Mulaney: “You know what they say, I hope I don’t die before Friday.”
– I like the living room stand-up bit to open the episodes. Especially that you can see the camera and crew in the shot – it’s essentially immediately breaking the fourth wall.
– I’m still getting used to the studio laughter, but in general it was not as painful as the premiere.