More than anything, though, it’s hard to imagine being twelve years old — and not having a best-friend like Paul Pfeiffer.
Now that’s more like it. After an episode that felt a bit lacking in its exploration of a secondary character, Loosiers sticks the landing. It’s not a perfect episode — in particular, Coach Cutlip is too cartoonish for this show — but it’s a lot more enjoyable than Hiroshima, Mon Frere, and it’s a lot more effective in its depiction of Paul than the last episode was of Wayne.
I can’t think of a scene in this show’s history that depicts the characters just hanging out that I haven’t liked. Loosiers has a few of these — Kevin and Paul playing basketball and the Arnold family watching the news come to mind — and every one of them works. The central conflict here is an interesting one, too. A simple fight is not an uncommon sitcom plot (and I assume Paul and Kevin will have their fair share of turbulence in future episodes) but the fact that Kevin was never acting selfishly added an interesting twist to that formula.
Paul, who so often plays the role of sidekick and strokes Kevin’s ego, is the one at the center of the conflict. Paul is a sports nut, so being miserably unathletic is a tough truth for him to come to grips with here. He has a wounded pride because of this. The episode did an excellent job making me understand both sides of the Paul-Kevin friction: Kevin only wants to help, but Paul will only be satisfied if he helps himself.
The basketball scenes themselves dragged on a little bit long, but proved enjoyable enough, particularly backed by the Harlem Globetrotters theme. The conclusion of the episode asserts that over-competitiveness and easily-bruised egos can ruin the activities that should be most fun and magical (a theme not too different from Coda a few episodes earlier).
I hope the show can find a way to keep Coach Cutlip a little bit less over-the-top in future episodes, otherwise I might start dreading scenes he plays a major role in. As far as loser gym teachers in coming-of-age TV shows go, I prefer Jeriba Sinclair in The Hard Times of RJ Berger and Coach Fredricks in Freaks and Geeks (the crown jewel of loser jock gym teachers) thus far.
But Cutlip wasn’t enough for me to not enjoy the episode. In fact, he had a part in maybe the funniest moment of the episode, when Paul’s errant shot hit Coach Cutlip in the head in slow motion.
And not enough can be said of Josh Saviano as Paul. He and Fred Savage steal the show among the non-adult cast. Here he demonstrates his strong dramatic chops more than in any episode yet, and we know by now that he has fantastic comedic chops, also on great display this episode.
A few other thoughts:
- I’m 98% sure that this is the first episode we’ve seen future-Kevin, and not just heard him. We see him going through old pictures of him and Paul, then playing basketball with future Paul (who demonstrates his trademark off-target “super-supreme fade-away hook shot” for the third time in the episode).
- This episode in Wow, Awesome Editing: The aforementioned slow-motion shot of the ball hitting Coach Cutlip in the head, with dramatic sports music in the background for excellent comedic effect.
- Great use of music all around this episode. James Taylor’s “You Got a Friend” is always good at pulling a heart-string, plus the Harlem Globetrotters music