This week in how the Internet has shaped dating, Zelda and Andrew fall down the rabbit hole researching each other online (and later in person). It’s a great premise. It’s kind of the premise. Google-stalking is about as broad as you can go with the theme of connectivity versus connection. Andrew and Zelda take the high road, which is easy for them to say now that they’ve found each other, but curiosity gets the better of them eventually. Conversely, Stephie has always believed in a good, thorough vetting process before seeing someone you met online. After discovering a potential date has been married twice already, she says, “Just goes to show you don’t know anybody until you start digging around on the Internet.”
A To Z doesn’t make much of it, though. Zelda and Andrew spend hours Googling each other—in the literal sense!—and all they have to show for it is a dash-cam of Andrew’s arrest at a Raiders game (the cops even dumped out his case of Zima). So what were they looking at? That’s a lot of high school awards and abandoned Myspace entries to sift through for nothing.
Stephie and Stu make less sense. She’s swiping left, excuse me, tapping no on all the wankers until she finds one Dean C., whose interests include Premier League soccer and whose salary is in the sweet spot above comfortable and below “douchy.” Despite everything she’s said so far in this episode, that must be the extent of her Googling, because she goes to meet this guy, and it’s Stu. That’s when Stu realizes the flaw in his plan: “I catfished you here to prove that I’m not a deceptive idiot?” Maybe “Dean C” and “semester at sea” aren’t enough information to find him online outside of the Wallflower app, but I had more faith in Stephie than this.
Finally, there’s Lydia, who has been called Big Bird in cast information online, and now we know why. She gets all Michael Scott about snooping through her employees’ computers, and she discovers that the staff calls her Big Bird behind her back. As any fan of sitcom diary episodes can tell you, snooping has a way of backfiring.
We get some good, heightened Veridian Dynamics fun at work. Lora, Dinesh, and Howard know Lydia’s watching them, so they react appropriately. Howard nonchalantly bashes his laptop on a trash can and tosses it. Lora and Dinesh play nice for the webcams. “Our work is always a priority,” she says robotically. “Because we love our jobs and our boss is a great leader,” he adds.
But it’s disappointing how quickly Andrew and Zelda drop the Google-stalking. It’s probably best to stay away from serious issues like surveillance and doxxing, but still their Googling could have been more fruitful. Instead we transition to her confession that she was married once upon a time, his over the top reaction to that information, and then his in-person stalking of her ex-husband, Gustav, whom she married for his immigration. It has its moments, like when a cop finds Andrew crouched behind a car watching Zelda sit down with Gustav for lunch, and Andrew says, “I’m just gonna be a couple more minutes.” Ben Feldman knocks deliveries out of the park all episode. But the plot is never that focused, or funny, or serious. It’s shaggy, or the sitcom equivalent anyway.
Then we get to the moment where Zelda lawyers him out of his handcuffs, and they sit on the curb soaking in what should be but isn’t quite romantic tension (or wsbbiqrt). They talk about how serious they find marriage. Once upon a time it was just a piece of paper to her, and now she thinks there’s more to it. Those aren’t mutually exclusive. You can still marry someone to help them immigrate and believe in marrying someone to spend the rest of your lives together. But I like A To Z pointing out how people’s conceptions of marriage and love and a relationship can change as they get older. “I’m less cynical now,” she says. He asks, “Any particular reason?” And we just hang there in the silence and what should be but isn’t quite romantic tension, lingering on him, then on her. After a week like this—and after finding out Andrew and Zelda have only been dating a week—I have no doubt that Andrew and Zelda are feeling this intense atmosphere in that moment. But I’m not.
Take Marry Me. Now, A To Z isn’t even trying to play in Marry Me’s ballpark, but the comparison’s useful. On Marry Me, we go from one outsized romantic blunder to another until the end when everyone realizes they were being silly and the required happy ending ensues. That’s kind of what happens on “C Is For Curiouser & Curiouser,” but it certainly isn’t as committed. Marry Me is a loud, crazy motormouth working overtime on the comedy to get me swept up in the romance. A To Z is a quiet romantic working overtime on the drama to get me swept up in the romance. The former works a lot better. It gets me to like these people, or at least feel entertained by them, which makes me root for them. Whereas A To Z is trying to get me to like this romance.
All of these reviews to the contrary, I’m not especially cynical about romance. Two of my favorite shows of the year are romantic (Hannibal and True Detective). I am ready and waiting to fall head over heels for these two and then hand my heart to Ben Queen so he can jump on it after the 8 months is up. But there’s nothing like comedy to win someone over. Keep us laughing, and the rest will follow.
- New Theory: It’s only been a week! Maybe this show really is prepared to condense seasons of story into an eight-month chronology.
- Okay, I was actually talking about Looking and Please Like Me. There used to be some great straight romances, but then every network sitcom got all heavy and down, and I stopped watching them. Recommendations?
- App of the Week: Lulu, which Stephie uses to check up on her potential boyfriends’ reviews by exes.
- “Despite having just met, both felt as if they truly knew each other.” Ahh, infatuation.
- Andrew and Zelda think Stephie goes overboard with the vetting: “Why not just meet him?” Stephie laughs. “Yeah, right. Why not just roofie myself while I’m at it?”
- I can’t capture his expression, but another great Feldman delivery: “I’m a little unclear what your issue is right now.”