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A To Z: “L Is For Likability”

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We’re one episode away from finding out why Andrew and Zelda only make it so far. Or not. Except for an unusually intrusive narrator, “L Is For Likability” gives no indication that A To Z is heading for an ending. Given the relationship deadline, I expected something more like the final couple episodes of You’re The Worst, one of the best rom-coms of the season, in which the central relationship slams into its second-act low. Or at least, given A To Z’s own history, a final-scene cliffhanger, like Zelda realizing she’s too good for Andrew or something. As it is, I have no idea if these late episodes were produced before cancellation, and the show itself isn’t giving me a lot of hope for resolution. Which is beside the point of how likable “L Is For Likability” is, but it’s silly to pretend like we don’t know the end is coming just because on the show, it isn’t.

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Anyway, “L Is For Likability” does remind me of one late-season episode: The O.C.’s “The Nana.” Instead of a prickly grandma coming to town it’s Andrew’s father, Pete (Dan Lauria of The Wonder Years). But the premise of a usually off-putting relative suddenly playing nice on this visit because of her own problems rings true. Pete’s routine with Andrew’s girlfriends is to say something so off-color that they break up with him, like “I can’t wait to see my first grandchild crown between her legs.” I don’t really buy it—for instance, why would you break up with someone just because his dad told you he was circumcised?—but it sets up the drama here, which is that Zelda and Pete are getting along swimmingly and all Andrew’s worry was for nothing.

One fringe off of that subplot has to do with Stu’s attachment to Andrew’s father. It doesn’t have much to do with anything, but it does give us some good jokes. The final slide in the montage of Pete ruining Andrew’s relationships has him telling a woman, without judgment, just definitionally, mind you, that she’s a bastard because her parents had her out of wedlock. Stu naturally takes his side against Andrew. “Well, that’s kind of on you for dating girls who were born out of wedlock. Right?” He says the last word like he’s appealing to some inner part of Andrew that secretly agrees but just doesn’t want to admit it, so it’s a funny delivery on its own, and it’s funny that Stu thinks that deep down Andrew might see it their way.

It turns out Pete was just playing nice, and that he doesn’t really like Zelda. So that’s two problems, the first being that he doesn’t usually bite his tongue. Why the change? Andrew lets that news spill to Zelda for some reason, and then he implores her to leave it alone, which by the law of sitcoms she can’t do. Lucky for us, Zelda Type-A-ing meeting the parent is pretty funny. Mostly she bakes him a humongous cake with an edible icing drone on top (a reference to his new spy toy), but it’s in her whole attitude. Once it comes out that he does actually like her, she keeps bragging about how awesome she is, body and mind. Because of that fake-out, she’s still desperate for reassurance. At her funniest, Zelda is performing—it’s what gave the pilot those sparks—and here she is all performance.

Eventually it comes out that Pete isn’t with his long-term girlfriend Barb anymore, and that’s why he said he didn’t like Zelda. Again, it doesn’t really check out. He’s trying to break up his son’s relationship because he’s lonely and wants to spend more time with him, and his plan was to play nice throughout that first dinner? Whatever. The point is parents are disappointing and Zelda is actually great and it’s never too late to redeem yourself. You can see why I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. “L Is For Likability” doesn’t have a lot of meat on its bones.

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One thing it does have is another cast connection that works like gangbusters. I had no idea how much I needed a scene or five pairing Christina Kirk with Lenora Crichlow until this episode. They’re each comic weapons for separate halves of the show, but together they’re electric. There’s something Escheresque about the way Stephie is the frivolous one in her main life, and Lydia is the iron lady in hers, but when you put them together suddenly Stephie is the alpha and both of them know it.

The main subplot here is about Lydia’s new idea: The only way to deactivate your Wallflower account is to do so in person at the office. The storytelling isn’t very controlled here, either. After Lydia explains that their customer service complaints will skyrocket, but Wallflower will still be making its money because it’s so hard to deactivate, Stephie walks into the building to deactivate, bragging about how easy it is now. So the punchline is Lydia has actually made it easier to lose customers. But she hasn’t. Regardless, Lydia and Dane get into a work tiff about it because he says he’ll run it up the flagpole (Lydia: “Is that a reference to what we were doing in the shower this morning?”) Like Pete, Dane was saying one thing but feeling another way. He just didn’t want to show favoritism. Which gets Lydia’s engine revved. She reveals her new tinted office windows, and they make up in full view of the office. The tint is on the wrong side.

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Oh and Stephie’s account never gets deactivated. Wallflower apparently has a “Hotel California”-style cancellation policy. And it’ll all be worth it if that means more Stephie-Lydia scenes.

Stray observations:

  • Okay, the full line is “I make the bread of your people, challah. Andrew’s circumcised, you know?” but I still maintain that’s not enough to ruin a relationship. Somebody just has a convenient scapegoat.
  • At work Lydia tells Dane, “Your knowledge, experience, and upper body strength has awoken a fire in this office that had lain dormant for far too long.” “Thank you, Lydia. It’s so rewarding helping you bring a project…to completion.” Much as I love Howard, Lydia and Dane are undeniable. Selfie had a few overly matchy romances in its first season, but none hit like Lydia and Dane.
  • Lydia asks Stephie to evaluate her appreciation of the site on a scale from one to 10. “Probably the worst site I’ve ever been a part of.” “I’ll mark that down as a six.”
  • At the end, the gang signs Pete up for Wallflower, and he’s a match for Stephie. Andrew has mixed feelings: “Why do I feel like she’d make a really good stepmom?”
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