So, you’re sitting at a table with four really talented and disarmingly attractive comic actors. Maybe you have never known a lot of comedians, or lived in Los Angeles, or spent time in “the industry,” or been a performing arts geek yourself, but I hope you understand I am describing a vignette in which the odds that at least one person at that table is a raving egomaniac, a narcissist, or an attention-sucking jerk… well, they’re pretty good.
Only these four people happen to be Jessica St. Clair, Lennon Parham, Jane Kaczmarek and Keegan Michael Key, and this is the set of Playing House, which USA finally had the sense to greenlight for a second season. So if you’d been tempted to take that bet, you’d have been walking off set minus your shirt. Although, Key would probably have been happy to hand over his black cashmere mock turtleneck, just to get everyone to stop making fun of him (on the day of the set visit, his character is “experimenting with new necklines” and no one’s in a hurry to let him hear the end of it, on or off-camera).
And at the risk of committing Spoilerism, let’s just say that if that man didn’t look like a dweeb doing a police-uniform striptease (yeah, if you haven’t watched Season One, now’s the time), he has nothing to fear from a turtleneck. Just saying.
The new season airs August 4th. So if this little comedy flew under your radar last season, get thee up to speed. Watching the pilot episode will make it instantly clear why a large and very vocal section of the Socialmediaverse was clamoring for a second season and chiding the network for its foot-dragging. The show was funny. Like, really funny. But it wasn’t just that.
It had a soul.
And watching these guys put a scene together, it was easy to see why. These actors are really, incredibly good performers. But there are certain ineffable things that you can’t fake. You can’t get good takes out of semi-improvised, ad hoc dialogue if you are not listening to each other. You can’t access the funny in Epic Sincerity if you are, at your core, hopelessly bitter and cynical. And you can’t have a tight, well-oiled machine ensemble if you are inherently wrapped up in yourself.
This cast is a breath of fresh air. Smart, witty, unpretentious and incredibly gracious to each other.
In addition to all this, there are some awesome guest appearances coming up (St. Clair and Parham explain that they simply “stalked” coveted guest stars until they caved in and said yes). Zach Woods has given up his poetry group (damn it), but his second-season endeavors will be “even better.” There will be a play—as in, a play within the play of Playing House—that… well, it gets pretty meta there. Kaczmarek still has not put her shirt collar down and ain’t gonna (some people experiment with necklines, and some just don’t), but she will finally get to Express Herself. Key will pull carpenter detail, as if his self-sacrificing, forgive-them-they-know-not-what-they-do thing wasn’t already clear enough. Bird Bones is back with a vengeance, and you can expect to see Bosephus again, minus the suspiciously pregnant-looking beer gut. And it goes without saying that the besties who define the term “Friendsbians” will continue to experience all manner of hijinks with the Absolutes Adorbs baby they’re raising.
If anything I just said confused you, you need to go and binge-watch Season One now. Like, now. This sitcom-skeptic wasn’t planning on finding Playing House irresistible, but you know what, it is. It’s funny as hell and has an essentially kind heart, and that’s because the people who make it are that way. It’s well-conceived, well-made and completely human. This show is not a guilty pleasure. It’s just a pleasure. Snaps to USA for doing the right thing. Can’t wait to see the new season.