MTV’s inappropriate and profane comedy about twenty-something NY hipsters continues its amusing first season. In this check-in, we’ll discuss the middle episodes and explore the assertion that Kim Shaw’s Tina is the true breakout star.
Let’s bitch it out…Although the show sells itself on the friendships of the four primary characters, it seems as though early on the producers realized that Stacey (Elisabeth Hower), Eric (Jordan Carlos) and, to a certain extent, even Jay (Peter Vack) are less interesting than Tina. As a result Tina has gotten a significant portion of the screentime, as well as all the best lines in the latest batch of episodes. It’s an interesting development considering that the show has largely abandoned Jay’s search for Jane, who isn’t even mentioned in ‘Something’s Wrong Down There’ or ‘Safety Nets.’ In a way, the show has moved away from that central concept and into a more specific focus on Jay and Tina’s inability to grow-up, with comedic and narrative appearances from Stacey and Eric as needed.
Episode 5 – ‘Something’s Wrong Down There’
Tina is the central focus of this episode, which revolves around a painful rash that develops ‘down there.’ It’s a nicely realized episode with a bit of a cop-out twist (the “red brail” *shudder* is not Chlamydia, it’s from Tina’s proclivity for wearing skinny jeans). In some ways this feels like the show’s attempt to address critics who have zeroed in on the show’s sexual antics (see the last check-in for details) by addressing that sex does have consequences. Of course this isn’t taken too seriously (it is still a comedy, after all) so instead of a very special episode, we have repeated scenes of Tina discussing and putting cold objects on her vagina. Plus, an education on STIs: the group reassures Tina that of all the STIs to get, Chlamydia is the best (good to know!)
It’s hard not to see this episode as an opportunity to rescue Tina from moral/social criticism. Stacey stands in (for the audience?) by judging Tina’s sex life, guessing that the single girl has slept with 17 guys in the last year. In fact she’s only slept with three: Josh Rabinowitz’s Intern Kent from ‘Baby Monkeys,’ on again-off again Brett, and new character Heinrich, the food truck guy for whom she has to ‘pictionary’ the problem using ketchup and mustard. By having Tina go around to tell her ex-lovers to get tested, the show demonstrates the responsibilities tied to safe and healthy sex (in an appropriately comedic and juvenile way). There’s also another goal, too, which is the suggestion that Tina still has feelings for Brett, which is why she agonizes over telling him and leaves him until the end.
The B-storyline in which Jay thinks he’s being paid for sex with Cougar-rific Gwen (Susan Misner) is silly (and, honestly, forgettable). I’m frustrated with the show’s insistence on making every woman besides Jane a crazed psycho: the role-playing bartender, the lying Missed-Connections girl, Gwen here and French Lucie in ‘Safety Nets’. I appreciate that we’re meant to root for Jay and Jane to get together, but the show is doing a poor job of representing females, which is ironic considering both Tina and Stacey are interesting and dominating in their relationships with men, even if they are flawed characters.
- Tina (as Eric takes a photo of her down-there-bits): “This better not end up on any weird fetish site.” Eric: “I can’t promise anything.”
- Tina (discussing her recent interaction with ex Brett): “His note says he missed my caramel center” (There’s something so wrong with that)
- Jay and Eric’s discussion about being paid for sex is a hoot, including references to “Dollars for dongs” and how Jay is more of a “modern hipster hooker” because he’s too skinny to be a hustler
- Nick Kocher’s Lench (divulging to Jay that he’s also slept with Gwen): “Is this our first cross-pollination? I’m proud to share a flower with you. Buzz buzz, bitch.”
- Tina (insisting Eric treats her to a sit down dinner after misdiagnosing her): “I’m going to knuckle punch your wallet”
Episode 6 – ‘Safety Nets’
Although not the funniest episode of the series, in terms of narrative progress, I found ‘Safety Nets’ the most mature. As problems associated with Jay’s unemployment and Tina’s rent rise, the two friends make a pact not to employ their safety nets and take the easy way out to resolve their respective problems. What I appreciate is the fact that both ultimately cave and give in (Tina asks her mother for money, Jay asks for his job back at the casting agency), but neither actually follows through. It’s not a great resolution since Tina doesn’t actually solve her own problem (Stacey finds a legal loophole and blackmails Tina’s landlord [John Scurti] into giving her back her apartment) and Jay’s aren’t solved at all.
I’ll admit that this particular story resonated with me because I’ve experienced both Tina and Jay’s situations: I’ve been in a compromising financial position that required calling on my parents for emergency funds and I’ve returned to a job I left on less than good terms. What I’m willing to bet is that I’m not the only one, either, which is one of the reasons I’m enjoying the show. Although I Just Want My Pants Back is prone to telling stories in a fantastic way (it is television and its primary purpose is to be entertaining), there’s a lot of relateability in these financial and career type stories (perhaps less so the sex ones, or at least the fourgy storylines). I’m not suggesting that the show is like a “slice of life” for this age group because it still has the contrivances of a commercially packaged MTV product, but for me it is touching on relevant topics that speak to the issues of late twenty-somethings.
The other worthwhile topic from this episode is Tina and Jay’s fight, which is the first time we’ve seen them bicker. As often as Tina sometimes resembles a caricature (likely one of the reasons she’s so enjoyable to watch), it’s Jay who comes off poorly here as he blows off his job search to hang out with Lucie (Mackenzie Davis). Once again the pairing proves ill-fated as Lucie is revealed to be a squatter and kleptomaniac, though watching her get tackled by a security guard for stealing cameras was amusing. I also liked the Charlie and The Chocolate Factory style sleeping arrangement with Tina and Jay at the end of the episode after they’ve made up. Such fun!
Best Lines (It’s a Tina sweep!):
- Tina (to Jay when he suggests he may need to sell a kidney for money): “Sell your hair first. Start on the outside and work your way in.”
- Tina (selling her clothes at pawn shop): “I fought a girl for this sweater. I literally punched her in the throat.” (This may only be hysterical to me because I use this expression all the time)
- Tina (selling clothes on the streets of Brooklyn): “I’m like a gyspy hipster. I’m a gypster.”
- Tina (regarding Jay’s decision to hook up with Lucie instead of job search): “Fine. You and Amelie play hide the baguette.”
How are you finding the show as it crosses the halfway point? Are you, like me, finding Kim Shaw’s Tina the best part of the show? Do you miss Jane at all? Sound off in the comments below!
I Just Want My Pants Back airs Thursdays at 11pm EST on MTV