Television has been enraptured with romantic comedies lately, but one of the more successful exemplars of this trend has flown under the radar. Last season, a little multi-cam called Ground Floor related the story of a one-night stand that became much more, when a banker and a maintenance supervisor realized that working in the same building wasn’t the only thing that they shared in common. Ground Floor took a chance by ditching the will-they/won’t-they dynamic between its two leads, establishing the odd couple as a couple from the very beginning. Instead of leading the audience on with tepid flirtations, Ground Floor explored the nuances of not one, but two key relationships: Brody’s romantic relationship, as well as his codependent work relationship with his eccentric, self-involved boss played by scene-stealer John C. McGinley. These relationships combined with Bill Lawrence’s signature blend of laughs and heart, a charismatic cast, and a few well-placed musical numbers resulted in a season one that felt fresh.
The premiere of season two takes a while to get going, as the ramifications of Brody’s choice at the end of last season have to be introduced. At the end of last season, Brody was torn between moving to Hong Kong for work at the insistence of his boss, and staying with Jenny. He decides to join Jenny on her vacation to Paris last minute, a romantic gesture that costs him his position at Remington Trust. The premiere does a good job following through on the consequences of this choice, which brought about complications both inevitable and unforeseen. Brody knew that his decision could lead to his firing, but he’s also the kind of obstinate, slightly arrogant go-getter who assumes that he can talk his way out of anything. Unfortunately for him, his overly invested boss takes his decision personally and won’t budge when it comes to his decision. While professional woes are inevitable in these circumstances, relationship problems after a romantic trip to Paris aren’t exactly expected. The decision to prioritize his girlfriend over his job should’ve solidified their relationship, but now Brody feels resentment towards her for indirectly causing his career to derail. As in many relationships, Brody serves two mistresses: his romantic partner and his business partner. The tensions between work and family are both human and dramatic; Ground Floor is wise to take these tensions seriously while also mining them for laughs.
Unfortunately, the laughs don’t come as frequently during this episode as they have when the show has been at the top of its game. The lines don’t crackle the way they usually do, which is a shame since Ground Floor’s witty writing sets it apart from many other multi-cams. The cast has plenty of charm and energy, but their talents can only do so much to elevate the scripts. Still, this is the first episode back and an upheaval of the status quo is very effective at restoring confidence in the show’s future. When Mansfield refuses to rehire him, Brody decides to start over and apply for a position with Jenny and friends so he can prove himself to Mansfield by working his way back up from the bottom. This is a wise move both narratively and comedically, as there will be new character dynamics to exploit, preventing the show from getting stale. For one, Brody and Jenny have been practically inseparable since they met, and even more togetherness will test their relationship to the limit, as working together is too close for most couples’ comfort.
The show is at its best when it awkwardly forces the two economically and culturally disparate worlds of Remington Trust and the ground floor together. There weren’t enough of these moments in the premiere, but Brody’s new position is promising. How will the ground floor group feel about Brody once his reason for joining them becomes clear, that he sees them as the bottom and a means back up to the top? The Upstairs, Downstairs element is one of Ground Floor’s strengths, and season two should double down on it. At this point in the show’s run, Ground Floor also needs to flesh out its secondary characters more if it’s serious about investing in its narrative and comedic future. After their temporary stint as roommates last season, more scenes between Harvard and Threepeat are basically mandatory. Even Jenny could use more complexity, as the show is currently unbalanced since she doesn’t have a connection with anyone that’s as significant as Brody’s relationship with Mansfield. If Ground Floor can learn from season one’s successes and weaknesses, and take advantage of this new status quo, it’ll give TBS more legitimacy as a destination for comedy, proving that the network can be “very funny” and more.
· The People demand more musical numbers. Check out the leads’ rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Creepy as always, but pitch perfect!
· Harvard and Threepeat need to be roommates, now and forever.
· John C. McGinley in a beret, forever as well as now.