After last week’s inspired 12 Angry Men remake, “I’m Sorry” was bound to be a bit of a letdown. I can only compare it to the feeling you get when you come home from a vacation and start to resent your old routines as you settle back into them.
Granted, I can’t hold this episode to the same standard as last week’s special, just like you can’t criticize your cubicle for not being Aruba. But even by this show’s usual standards, “I’m Sorry” is a disappointment. There’s some good material here but Schumer has iterated on most of the episode’s themes more expertly in prior outings.
First up is Schumer’s take on the beer ad in which a man makes seemingly flirty faces at her only to reach for a beer right next to her head. It’s a common enough trope in ads targeted at men—imply that the product is even sexier than a woman—but Schumer takes him to task for buying it.
“I’m sorry, were you flirting with that beer?” she asks him, interrupting his conversation with his friends.
What follows is a sketch that was done better in “Chicks Who Can Hang” last season. That bit nailed the idea that some dudes may be more invested in the trappings of masculinity—martial arts, hamburgers, power tools—than they are in actually having sex with women. And just as that sketch concludes with the men suggesting that they should just have sex with each other, this parody ends with a plug for “Dick Hole Beer: Finally, A Beer You Can F**k.” It’s a clever observation but one she’s already made elsewhere.
Bill Hader makes a welcome appearance in the next sketch, which shines a spotlight on the subtle sexism that late-night talk show hosts bring to their interviews with young Hollywood starlets. Hader does a convincing Letterman / Conan hybrid with a constant stream of ribald comments about his guest “Amy Lake Blively” and a slew of denigrating remarks about his perfectly-named wife “Darflin.”
But the sketch splits its targets and, as a result, it’s hard to tell whether the show wants us to laugh at Blake Lively, Letterman, or the whole premise of the celebrity interview. It’s a little muddied but it’s still fun. The literal highlights of the sketch are Amy Lake Blively’s reflective legs which appear, at first, to be covered in a gallon of Vaseline but eventually become Oompa Loompa orange.
More confused is “The Recapper,” Schumer’s takedown of men who actually like pillow talk. Given how common of a complaint it is that men don’t participate in post-coital intimacy, it feels a little cruel to go after the cuddly boyfriend in this sketch who says things like, “I am so drunk on you right now.” To my own nesting lesbian ears, that line sounds sweet so maybe the joke here is just heterosexuality’s inherent awkwardness? (Straight people, help me out here.)
The titular sketch featuring a panel of overly apologetic female experts has a sound point—women are raised to apologize for everything—but, in execution, it’s a worse version of “I’m So Bad,” which also exaggerates a female quirk until it reaches a grotesque conclusion. The writing is much stronger in “I’m So Bad”—here, the sketch devolves too quickly into the actresses repeating “I’m sorry” ad nauseum. Simply doing the thing that women do too much isn’t enough to hang a sketch on.
Hader returns in the last bit as retired porn star Doug St. Hammer, who is trying his hand at a pizza commercial but can’t help but return to his old ways given the setup. After several episodes worth of social commentary this season, it’s nice to see Schumer doing material that’s just plain absurd with no underlying message.
But the “Amy Goes Deep” interview with gigolo Vin Armani ends the episode on a sour note. It’s clear by now that Schumer has an insatiable curiosity for people who live on the sexual margins of society. In some interviews, that curiosity produces scintillating conversation but, in others, Schumer simply gawks at the very idea of a person. Armani making fun of his middle-aged clientele isn’t cute here and neither is Schumer’s fascination with his profession. It’s a mediocre end to a mediocre episode.
Given this season’s strong start, I’m hopeful that this episode was just a bad week back at home after last week’s brilliant escape from the format. It’s nothing to apologize for but it’s far from Schumer’s best.
Samantha Allen is the Internet’s premier alpaca enthusiast as well as a Daily Beast contributor. Follow her on Twitter.