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A middling A.P. Bio has us wondering just how good of a philosopher Jack's supposed to be

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In August, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones posted a photo to his Instagram account. In it, he was posing by a hot tub with Bill Nye, Flava Flav, and an unnamed woman. The photo got some press at the time, what with it being such an odd gathering of celebrities, but no one quite knew what brought them all together.


Well, we do now.

In what was probably the most inspired bit of the otherwise middling “Selling Out,” we learn that Miles Leonard takes a meditation class alongside Jones and Nye; whether or not Flav is also in the class is unclear, but his appearance may have been the best part. “Flav’s here with the nachos!” cries Miles, and, Christ almighty, that’s a party I’d like to attend.

It was refreshing seeing Miles play such a sizable role in this episode. For once, he wasn’t a fringe, thinly drawn driver of plot but an actual player, helping Jack secure a book deal for 100 Smiles In Your Pocket, a book of upbeat, bite-sized philosophy. Of course, that’s not the book Jack wanted to sell; that would be The End: A Philosophy of Death, a tome that, at least according to the excerpts we see, seems to say that nothing matters because we all die. Not exactly groundbreaking philosophy there.


And that’s bizarre because we haven’t been led to believe that Jack is a bad philosopher. He went to Harvard, after all, and the ways he’s incorporated philosophy in previous episodes haven’t been dunderheaded. Yet Jack seems to think he’s spitting out brilliance during the episode’s first act writing montage when what he’s writing is, well, pretty basic nihilism.

Screenshot: NBC

Also, why is he writing “The End” at the end of what looks to be the book’s intro?

Screenshot: NBC

“So...beware” is pretty funny, though.

In its broadness, the book points towards a larger issue, which is that we still don’t really know all that much about Jack. We know he’s angry, that he’s bitter and horny. But we don’t still don’t know what he cares about. Or about his relationship with his dead mother, whose house he’s living in. Or Toledo itself, with which you’d assume he had a history if his mother was living there. Or why he got kicked out of Harvard; who was that old man he beat up? What’s his deal? His philosophy is as vague and basic as his character, and, brilliant as Glenn Howerton is, he can only do so much.


And he does a lot here. Howerton sells Jack’s creative epiphany with vigor, and the jealousy he exudes at the thought of Miles palling around with celebs is amusing. It’s also nice to see his relationship with Helen take on a new dimension, as well as his subtle reactions to her caffeine-induced jam session.

“If you pass gas when you leave a room it’s called a too-da-loo,” she says.

Jack’s response: “Is that the first half of something?”

Paula Pell and Glenn Howerton
Photo: Vivian Zink (NBC)

“Selling Out” also has what’s probably the strongest ending of any episode to date, with Jack blowing his pitch to the agents, who, in a refreshing bit of business, don’t like his Helen-inspired spin on 100 Smiles In Your Pocket anyway. When he sulks back into the classroom, he’s heartened to hear the students have not only read his book on death, but love it. The episode closes with them debating its various ideas, which makes sense considering its revelations would pretty much only appeal to teenagers.

But, as I’ve noted in previous write-ups, it seems that the more A.P. Bio refines its storytelling, the less funny it gets. There’s good lines here and there—often from Heather or Anthony—and Howerton can make any bit of invective hilarious, but the show’s never quite achieved the distinct weirdness promised by its pilot, which felt very much in step with creator Mike O’Brien. Since then, it’s felt less like an O’Brien creation and more like a standard sitcom with just a little bit more bite.


Mike, come back.

Stray observations

  • It’s been fun, y’all, but this will be the last of our A.P. Bio coverage for a while. We’ll be back for the finale on May 17 to see how it’s fared in our absence.
  • It’s almost a fitting place to drop off, actually, what with Jack seeming to learn that it’s best to be where you’re appreciated rather than to chase the tails of those who want nothing to do with you. That’s a nice lesson.
  • A perfectly fine subplot involving Stef and Mary drawing Michelle and Principal Durbin into a fight over emergency contacts. There wasn’t much to it, but it was fun seeing Stef try to be pals with Durbin, who regales her with tales of how he “really doesn’t like blue cheese.”
  • How about that use of Pixies’ “U Mass”? An awesome (and appropriate) use of the Trompe le Monde classic.
  • My favorite of Helen’s aphorisms: “If you can escape the womb, you can escape anything!”
  • “Of course it sounds terrible when Marcus reads it.” Poor Marcus.
  • “I popped one of the interns pretty good,” Jack says of the fallout of his meeting with the publisher. “There’s a warrant for my arrest in New York.” I can only hope that A.P. Bio grows into the kind of show where that warrant comes back to haunt him.
  • See you in May!

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.