Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: We add TV to the mix, presenting a week of our favorite series finales in anticipation of Parks And Recreation’s final episode. (Note: Plot details are revealed.)
Home Movies, “Focus Grill” (season four, episode 13; originally aired April 4, 2004)
For 52 episodes, Home Movies’ Brendon Small (voiced by his namesake, who’s also the series co-creator) views childhood through a viewfinder. School, his home life, soccer games played under the guidance of a lovable drunk—everything in the budding filmmaker’s life is fodder for his next camcorder opus. And then, after one fateful bump in the road, that filter is gone forever.
To say that all of Home Movies builds to the destruction of Brendon’s camera isn’t entirely accurate. So much of the animated comedy—conceived by Small and future Bob’s Burgers boss Loren Bouchard—is wrapped up in showing why Brendon and his friends devote their free time to filming, editing, and screening movies like Anchor’s & Aweigh We Go!!!, Starboy And The Captain Of Outer Space, and a rock opera based on the life of Franz Kafka. And the series finale, “Focus Grill,” brings that theme home: Things are changing rapidly around Brendon, Melissa (Melissa Bardin Galsky), and Jason (H. Jon Benjamin), and so they pour themselves into finding an ending for their first, incomplete movie. (“It’s very difficult to come up with an ending,” the faux-worldly Brendon says at one point, unaware that he’s participating in a different sort of ending.) Complicating that task is the focus group of classmates they’ve assembled to pick the best ending, a peanut gallery of Home Movies’ most endearing secondary players. Meanwhile, Coach McGuirk (Benjamin, again) is building a grill for Brendon’s mom, Paula (Janine Ditullio), and Melissa keeps putting on more and more makeup—it’s funny stuff, but it’s a lot for a kid to handle.
“Focus Grill” isn’t a finale of seismic shifts—it’s a series of subtle adjustments punctuated by one big event. But in true Home Movies fashion, even that big event is relatively minor, as Brendon turns from the wreckage of his camera to join the argument about where his surrogate family should get dinner. The home sought by Brendon in the film-within-the-episode isn’t the pile of metallic rubble McGuirk is trying to fashion into a barbecue—home, as he can finally see with his own eyes, are these people in this car.
In bringing Home Movies to a close, “Focus Grill” gets cutesy; after all, most of Brendon, Jason, and Melissa’s dialogue in the episode is about finding an ending to their story. But “Focus Grill,” like the best of series finales, suggests that the wheels keep spinning after the screen goes blank. Home Movies is the life Brendon Small lives behind a camera; the beginning of his actual life is somewhere up the road, at a Chinese restaurant, or maybe some place with a salad bar.
Availability: “Focus Grill” is available as part of the Home Movies: The Complete Series DVD set. It’s also currently streaming on Shout! Factory TV.