“Goodnight, My Someone” comes from The Music Man, by way of Celia. Now that she’s seeing the neighborhood analyst, we get to hear some of her thoughts about herself. Apparently that’s what she says every night before bed, not to whomever she’s with, if she’s with anyone at all. Your someone, she says, is someone you haven’t met but who’s out there. Celia thinks of her someone on lonely nights to give her hope. It’s the perfect line to encapsulate such a sweet episode.

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Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m talking about sweetness, not sentimentality. Although its sweetness has weight, Blunt Talk isn’t sappy like most sitcoms when they veer into pathos. Blunt Talk doesn’t have pity for its characters, and it isn’t glib about melancholy. At the climax of “Goodnight, My Someone,” Walter finds out his son Rafe (played by Patrick Stewart’s son Daniel, another sweet touch) makes money by throwing fights. Walter tells him, “I don’t care if you win or lose. I love you,” but he can’t bring himself to watch. Rafe hears his father and sees him, and at last he decides to throw caution to the wind and give this fight a go. There’s a lot working to moderate our emotions: Walter’s parental history, the cartoonishness of the sequence, the fact that we’ve known Rafe for 20 minutes. So instead of a grand waterworks, this climactic “I love you” is beautifully recalibrated down to an act of sweetness. Walter does something positive, Rafe is inspired by it, and Blunt Talk delights in the tiny step forward for the two men. That’s sweet, and that wise restraint is going to give Blunt Talk longevity.

Rafe’s visit is what separates “Goodnight, My Someone” into a segment of the show, but it’s mostly a continuation of the running themes. For instance, there’s a whole bit about genital mutilation that leads to Walter’s discovery that he’s not circumcised like he had thought for all these years. Nobody would actually correct Walter about the state of his own penis live on-air—earlier the UN leader of the commission on genital mutilation accidentally checked out Walter at the urinals—but the episode compensates with comedy. “You’re wrong,” Walter tells him. “I’m kind of an expert,” he replies. (Harry’s response: “It did not occur to me, Sir, that you needed elucidation on this front.”) So now Walter’s all concerned about having circumcised his sons, like he was all concerned about that poor cop’s balls.

The other thing is the work-life family. Walter makes it explicit when he invites his staff over for dinner to meet Rafe. He says Jim’s like a third son, and Jim doesn’t weasel out like last time. In fact, there’s a nice moment when he and Rafe bond over being something like brothers. After all, it sounds like Walter’s been there for Jim more than he has for Rafe. That would maybe make Celia a daughter in the family, but she sleeps with Rafe, so let’s not get too literal here. Celia gets swept up in Rafe as part of a pattern, one she recognizes but is powerless to stop. At least she knows it’s not gonna last with this one. The magician just disappeared. In bed she confides in Rafe a little bit. “I don’t want Walter to see me. I’m always afraid of disappointing him.” Cut to our first wide shot of the room, revealing a Blunt Talk poster on every wall, Walter’s serious face looking down on Celia from every direction.

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That makes Rosalie the mother of the team, a good fit. “You’ve got it bad,” she tells Celia, lovesick over the magician, “but I understand. He was sexy. He had teeth like a wolf.” What a zig, but it makes perfect sense that Rosalie would be into that. She tells Celia she just needs to find the right idiot, like Teddy is for her. As always, it’s probably not the best advice—growing is too hard for platitudes—but it’s well-meant and it’s true to Rosalie.

Sometimes Blunt Talk is so restrained the jokes are only in the writing, like when Walter asks if he’s ruined Rafe and Harry says, “Not yet, Major. There’s still time.” He means there’s time to save Rafe, but it reads like there’s still time to ruin him. Mostly it’s getting to where I have trouble keeping up with all the funny lines and deliveries and points-of-view. “Doesn’t it help at all that you got knocked out in the third round?” Walter asks Rafe after he loses the fight. “Are these mobsters that particular?”

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Sweetness is what sets Blunt Talk apart from its own little crowd, meaning the broad, bittersweet half-hours like Suburgatory and the do-gooder dramedies like Enlightened. They have their moments, but Tessa Altman and Amy Jellicoe are not sweet. They’re angry and armored. Walter Blunt and the rest of the Blunt Talk staff are no less deluded, but they come across to us almost like happy idiots despite the fact that they’re neither happy nor idiots. They’re just not very clear-eyed. They mean well, they skate through misfortune, and they strive for better futures. The other element is tone. Suburgatory and Enlightened are satirical to various degrees, and Blunt Talk is somewhat less so. The suburban excesses of Chatswin and the corporate sins of Abaddonn Industries are fuel for the fire, whereas the cable news failures of Blunt Talk and its rivals are just comic relief. Finally, there’s the fact that Walter and his staff have a lot of power. All these shows are about outcasts and oddballs, but Blunt Talk is about the people who’ve sunk their own ships. It isn’t rooting for the marginalized. It’s rooting for the failures.

Stray observations

  • “Goodnight, My Someone” is written by Jonathan Ames and Sam Sklaver and directed by Bill D’Elia.
  • Rosalie on men: “Don’t give up on men. They have a wonderful stink. They carry luggage. And when you have a firm cock in your hand, all the shit they put you through feels worth it.”
  • The analyst is in Walter’s office conducting sessions when Walter walks in. “I saw that you installed a bidet in your bathroom. That’s gonna help you with your anal anxiety.” “I thought I had oral anxiety.” “You have both, oral and anal anxiety.”
  • Walter rushes to Rosalie for a second opinion on his possibly circumcised penis. “Walter it’s been 20 years. But I remember it was very red and very uncircumcised.” “Very red?” “In a good way. Enthusiastic.”

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