In “F Me,” Marry Me continues its efforts to set itself apart from the rom-sitcom pack, but unfortunately tries to do so with one of the most contrived plotlines imaginable. Annie and Jake come home drunk, see a flyer for their building’s upcoming Art Show, and add an “F” to make it “Fart Show.” Hilarious. Then when their neighbors see the flyer, they decide that this automatically snowballs into a hate crime. Sure.

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Did anyone out there not see Annie and Jake hiding this for awhile, then predict that someone else would get blamed, which would lead to the couple telling the truth with no real consequences? After the two try to throw their apartment board off the scent by “hate-criming” their own front door with a “Lushes” tag (Annie: “What a horrible and accurate slur!”), it looks like they’re in the clear. So of course, Annie decides they must confess. Jake thickly comments, “Wow, unexpected twist!” Jake, it was unexpected by no one. The couple is obviously not going to lose their home, especially for something with no real ramifications or weight anyway. This setup is slight, way too slight for an A-plot.

It’s too bad, because the episode does offer some inspired characterizations, especially Atlas, the pretentious tenant who gets blamed for the hate crime instead, with his penny farthing and his urban falconry and his suede frock coat. And Jessica St. Clair fortunately reappears as Annie and Jake’s perky and nosy neighbor (she’s the white Oprah), who sets up a Carefrontation after the dreaded incident. The event (which doubles as a benefit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome) then transforms into a Carefrontraption when it turns out she suspects our starring couple. Good one, Julie!

Casey Wilson and Ken Marino are just loose and unhinged enough to play off each other well, like when he’s freaking out that they’re going to get caught, and she throws a glass at his head instead of some water in his face. Then it turns out that the board wants to get rid of Atlas anyway for his weird habits like wearing a top hat. Sayeth the board president, “We don’t understand him, therefore we hate him,” and Jake rightly points out, “Isn’t that the definition of a hate crime?” So the two get away just with docenting at the aforementioned (f)art show, with an ending shot that looks like it’s a support group for ugly-sweater wearers. Unlike last week, this episode really isn’t saying anything about relationships or pre-marriage or its main characters, except to paint them as slightly horrible people.

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All in all, this plot did not stand a chance, as it was matched with a B-plot that commandeered all the episode’s momentum. Annie’s dads, the two Kevins (Dan Bucatinsky and Tim Meadows) have always been standouts. This week they make the most out of their unlikely premise that they only have enough room in Annie and Jake’s wedding for one more plus-one. Which means Dennah, Gil, and Kay have to fight over who can bring a date to the wedding. Bucatinsky turns this competition into a pilot game show for Bravo, in the episode’s greatest scene by a mile (Kay rightly points out: “This is crappy enough to be a real show!”). With Dennah now dating her slightly creepy yoga instructor (the always-welcome Rob Huebel), Gil dragging along his ex-wife, and Kay in the middle, this short scene practically fizzes. Kevin randomly decides who to give points to by ringing a bell, Dennah and her yoga instructor move into various poses, and Kay is just glad she’s single. The scene is an example of how even an absurd plot can work if the cast is game, if there’s enough energy, and mostly, if it’s just funny enough. It also hosts some nice continuity: hostility between Dennah and Gil, and the whole game-show setup is definitely something that Annie would do, since she takes after her dad. This inspired scene gets the perfect ending when it’s revealed that Other Kevin forgot to film the whole thing.

This B-plot even has an inspired twist: Kay gets the plus-one in the end because it turns out she has a secret girlfriend! And it’s the sublime Ana Ortiz! Well-played, show. Gil and Dennah, in an unusually touching moment, are so excited for their friend that they give up their plus-ones. They also encourage her to come out of the relationship closet. Says the unflappable Kay: “I don’t think straight people are allowed to say that.”

Marry Me has a fun energy that at times is too scattered to land. Sometimes it does, but sometimes exchanges like “Your mom better watch out!” “Why?” “Oh, I heard her apartment got broken into.” “Oh, she’s fine, thanks.” fall terribly flat. Just because something is said really quickly doesn’t make it automatically funny. Marry Me keeps getting closer, but it needs more focus, especially less on its main couple and more on its sparkling supporting players. Last week, Molly Eichel sang the praises of Tymberlee Hill as Kay; this week I meet that and raise her a pair a Kevins. There’s a lot of good in this show, if Marry Me can figure out how to make the most of it.

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Stray observations:

  • Seriously, is it too early for a spin-off featuring Annie’s two dads?
  • Props to Annie’s Huey Lewis T-shirt.
  • “This feels like a pants-on conversation.”
  • “Save it for the funny pages, Calvin and Hobbes.”
  • “You’re right, Hate is the real four-letter word.”
  • Thanks to Molly Eichel for letting me sit in this week!

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