June 16, 2014 by Susan Miller
Playing House is the best show you’re not watching because you have no idea it exists.
Trapped in the summer wasteland of television, Playing House is the BFF comedy I’ve been waiting for. I had no idea there was such a void in my TV diet until Jessica and Lennon showed up and filled it. Now I have no idea what I’ll do without them.
Lucky for you, dear readers, you’ve probably never heard of the show that will end its magnificent first season with back-to-back episodes tomorrow night. That means you have 10 episodes of bliss ahead of you. The show airs at 9pm on USA, but you can catch up with the first 8 episodes, all available on Hulu now.
Playing House is written by its two stars and real life besties, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. The two met and fell in friend-love performing in the improv group, Upright Citizens Brigade. The main premise is simple. Maggie (played by Lennon) is pregnant and ditches her husband after she realizes (horribly, at her baby shower) that he’s cheating on her. Emma, home from her fancy pants job in China, decides to move in with her best friend Maggie to help her raise the baby. Small town hijinks and general merriment ensue. Keegan-Michael Key guest stars as a local police officer, trapped solving the mundane crimes of a small town (example: a ring of lawn gnome thefts). He has the added benefit of being married to Lindsay Sloane (always a welcome presence) and being Emma’s jilted high school sweetheart. The family characters are strong too in Zach Woods (Gabe from The Office) as Maggie’s wackadoo brother who leads a local poetry class. The star pupil of the poetry class is Emma’s estranged Mom, played by Jane Kaczmarek of Malcolm in the Middle. The cast is solid, and the guest roles are played by comic vets and real life friends of Jessica and Lennon, so the chemistry is real and natural. It’s an interesting world to live in, and the girls make it as funny as possible, while still being sweet.
There’s an episode about the poetry readings, another about Mark’s new wife, a genius one about Maggie’s high school drumline reunion, and a Magic Mike spoof. But what makes this silly sitcom special is the realistic approach to friendship. Sure, Maggie and Emma miscommunicate, and this leads to conflict in episode 4, “Totes Kewl.” But the way it’s handled, honestly, frustratingly, and fully by the end of the episode is genuine and makes you want to pick up the phone and call your best friend and demand that they come over and watch the show with you. All those touches of actual friendship that movies like Bridesmaids and The Heat got right, are in every episode of this sweet, silly, little show. It’s a little big magic, how good it makes you feel. Did I mention I’m not sure what I’m going to do without it? It’s like the perfect, no-calorie, heaping bowl of ice cream we’ve all been waiting for.
So if you’re around, and having a bad day, or just wonder if you could be having a better day, turn on the TV at 9pm on Tuesday night and watch the final two episodes of the season. Especially if you have a Nielsen box. I’m sure they like getting paid and all, but you’re really doing it for me, because I can’t lose Enlisted, Trophy Wife AND Playing House in one year. I just can’t. Please don’t make me.