I reviewed the pilot of Playing House a couple of weeks ago. I really enjoyed it, but felt that there was plenty of room for improvement – this practically comes standard in the first episode of a sitcom. I didn’t revisit Playing House again until earlier today, at which point I proceeded to watch the rest of the first season in its entirety. TV’s a hell of a drug, man. This really isn’t too impressive a feat (the term “impressive” being entirely subjective in this situation). The first season of Playing House is only 10 half-hour episodes, so I only had to squeeze in nine 22 minuters – a little over three hours. I’ve binged a lot worse than that.
Ultimately my biggest regret is that I devoured all of the episodes so quickly. As a quick refresher, Playing House follows the return of Emma (Jessica St. Clair) to the small town she left after high school as she helps her best friend, Maggie (Lennon Parham), prepare for her very imminent motherhood. The series also stars Keegan-Michael Key as Emma’s high school sweatheart, Mark, Zach Woods as Maggie’s brother, Zach, and Brad Morris as the father of Maggie’s baby, Bruce.
Playing House is unabashed in it’s fore-fronting of Maggie and Emma (probably due in no small part to the fact that Parham and St. Clair created the series). Zach, who would easily be a breakout character on another show is only in four or five of the episodes, and the show makes no apologies for that. Key appears in most episodes, but he is mostly dressing for Emma’s larger storyline.
The show’s greatest strength will always be the borderline unhealthy relationship between Emma and Maggie. The two stars’ incredible chemistry carries the show through rote sitcom plots. Oftentimes it is hard to tell whether the two actresses are exchanging scripted dialogue or just riffing, and that is a high compliment.
A close second in terms of “strengths” is the show’s setting. The restrictions of a small town allow for a real community to build around Maggie and Emma. This includes small, but hard-hitting supporting characters like Emma’s mother (Jane Kaczmarek) and Mark’s partner (Ian Roberts). Hopefully in future seasons the show can create a Pawnee-like stable of characters for Emma and Maggie to play off of.
That is provided Playing House gets a second season. I don’t know what the rating were like for the first season, and furthermore, I don’t know what counts as good ratings for USA. But what I do know is that Playing House is a funny show that still has room to grow. This is one of the first sitcoms I have seen in a while that actually makes me want to write.
With its fate still up in the air, all we can do is enjoy the 10 episodes that we have already. St. Clair, Parham, and everyone involved have made a seriously enjoyable, continuity-minded, possibly standalone season of television. Hopefully it doesn’t standalone, though. That would be a bummer.