Playing House airs Tuesdays on USA Network at 10/9 C.
Picking up 4.5 months after season 1 begins, Playing House stars Lennon Parham (Maggie) and Jessica St. Clair (Emma) as two best friends who move in together after Maggie's husband cheats on her during her pregnancy. It's a fun, somewhat raunchy show in which both characters take turns getting into zany situations. Last year's 10 episodes focused on re-establishing their friendship and the ups and downs of pregnancy, cumulating in the birth of Maggie's daughter Charlotte. Grounded in their real-life friendship that creates excellent on-screen chemistry, Parham and St. Clair created, produce, and write for the show. It is also one of the few shows on TV that portrays a female friendship in a positive albeit sometimes unrealistic light. Maggie and Emma aren't in a competition, they don't put each other down, they aren't fighting over a man, and they always, always have each other's back. It's a refreshing change that I'd like to see in more TV shows.
That's also why I was disappointed at the end of last season when they developed a love triangle between Emma, her ex Mark, and his wife Tina. Sadly that plot continues in the season 2 opener. 4.5 months after baby Charlotte's christening, Tina still insists that Mark stay away from Emma. To say Emma's bitter about it is an understatement. Worse, it makes things doubly hard on Mark and Maggie who have been friends for years. In the cutest scene of the opening doubleheader, Mark and Maggie sneak around so that Mark can have uncle time with Charlotte. I dare you not to awww when he plays with the baby. Of course keeping secrets blows up in their faces and in true Playing House fashion, a caper turns into a much worse disaster. Luckily the episode hints at ending the Tina and Emma standoff, which can only enhance the show. Even better is the return of Mary Pat, Bruce's mother. While never missing a moment to point out Bruce's failings in his marriage to Maggie, they share a great moment while making their family's secret sauce.
The second episode revolves around Maggie getting back into the dating scene via Tinder through Emma's not-so-subtle pushing. Of the two, I enjoyed this episode better because it focused less on wacky shenanigans/love triangles and more on the characters themselves, even though it upped the raunchiness beyond what was necessary. Let's just say that lactation and sex dreams take up too much time here. However, the natural bond between the two best friends bridges most of the rough parts and creates some genuinely funny scenes. It also allows for cameos from Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame and the Property Brothers. (Full disclosure - I had no idea who these two were before this episode.) In the subplot, Bruce and Maggie's brother Zach babysit while she's out on her dates and they have vastly different ideas on how to interact with a baby. Overall, the first two episodes feel much like season 1 albeit slightly more grownup. The character interactions are still the biggest pull and it's balanced between the secondary characters, who make especially the first episode better. If you've been missing a good female friendship on TV or are in need of a comedy to bridge the wait until fall, check this one out.
Grade: B- / B
Best Scene - Mark makes everyone talk it out
Best Return - Bruce's mom
Best No-Dialogue Scene - Paula Abdul dancing
Best Guest Star - Darius Rucker
Strangest Guest Stars - Property Brothers
Biggest Non-Guest Star - Tom Hanks, who never appears but sure is talked about a lot
Strangest Metaphor - parenting and tomatoes
Worst Decorating - the picture wall
Worst Plan - breaking and entering (even if they aren't technically breaking)
Biggest Nightmare - death by spider
Biggest Awww - Mark with Baby Charlotte
Strangest New Word - duncle
"I knew it was gonna be disturbing the moment it came out of your mouth. And it was."
"I'm going to go cue up her night music - Chopin or Beethoven?" "Definitely Beethoven. I love that dog."
"It looks like a serial killer's basement in here."
Mary Pat's speech
"No, we're not doing good. We're half-naked in a public bathroom."
"Stella, we are gonna get your groove back." "You never saw that movie." "I don't like beach movies."
"That's why you've got to hold on to the Hanks of your dreams."
"We have to burn this house to the ground!"
"Wow. You know you live with someone and you think you know them. This is just like Gone Girl."
"You're not suggesting we break into their house because that's what crazy people do."
Check out the Playing House 2-episode premiere Tuesday on USA Network at 10/9 C.
Screencaps by TV Insider
, Digital Spy
, USA Network
, and EW