By David Kramer
This week was the Halloween episode of “Mulaney,” and the bad omens started early. On Saturday it was reported that Fox has cut the order from 16 to 13 episodes. Now, this does not mean the show has been canceled or even will be canceled. But it is not a promising sign from a show that has not been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
The good news? This week’s episode is the best one yet. The writing of the show is improving, and the jokes are no longer just adapted-for-television versions of stand-up jokes. While the acting is still a bit clunky, it is improving, and the characters are getting more likeable. The studio laughter is still awkward, but that’s a hurdle that the show is getting closer to leaping over with better jokes.
The basis of all of the plotlines this week is the death of Mulaney’s neighbor, Mr. Lapidus. Mulaney knows him as the guy who wanted feedback on his jokes. This sets up Mulaney’s story, in which he steals the jokes from Mr. Lapidus’ notebook, for use on “Celebrity You Guessed It.”
Mulaney is in an amusing but predictable quandary about stealing jokes from the dead. While he knows its wrong, he also faces the threat of Lou Cannon firing him on Halloween. When Mulaney finally comes clean to Lou, Lou delivers the line: “I don’t respect what you did, but I can certainly exploit it.”
This storyline also gives us a fantastic visual joke, as Mr. Lapidus’ notebook opens up to a “joke” that seemed to be an off-the-cuff line from Mulaney to Lou. I love that the lead character is not merely a vehicle for teaching morals. He is not a moral person in this episode; he steals jokes and literally digs up a grave to steal a notebook, then steals another joke in his confession. If the show can continue to break leading-role stereotypes like this, it can succeed.
Jane also has a great episode this week. As a result of Mr. Lapidus’ death, she has the opportunity to take over his rent-controlled apartment. She pretends to be his ex-wife to scam the system, and has a full musical number about her scheme. I’m so happy to see Nasim Pedrad used to her full ability.
Motif is also affected by the death of Mr. Lapidus, as he thinks he is being haunted by a ghost. He films his bedroom, a la Paranormal Activity, and masturbates while waving to the camera. He also delivers a well-timed “Not really,” in response to Mulaney’s wistful question, “Isn’t life funny?”
This episode, on the other hand, really was funny.
-Andre was another breakout star in this episode. From his pinata costume to visiting sex offenders’ houses, he provided some solid chuckles.
-Dan Mintz, a producer on the show, was a guest star this week. He also plays the voice of Tina Belcher on Bob’s Burgers. I couldn’t stop imagining her whenever he spoke. His best line: “I have three teenage girls. Now they’re going to break up with me.”