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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Grinder ditches Boggle with Paul Giamatti, free swag socks

Illustration for article titled The Grinder ditches Boggle with Paul Giamatti, free swag socks
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Dean learned a very important lesson in “Buckingham Malice”: how to order his own lattes. As it stands right now, there are two kinds of Grinder episodes: the ones that use Dean’s celebrity as the joke that fuels the A-plot, and the ones that use legal procedural as the joke. This fits into the former a category as Dean discards the perks of his celebrity, deciding to live life as a normal who doesn’t have the perk of getting all of the free socks. Like the Grinder himself, Dean wants it known that he can make it on his own without the aid of his fame, even though that’s not really something he can ever get rid of. Like Jon Hamm’s Drew in 30 Rock, Dean figures out that living outside of the bubble is not all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s quite a funny journey, thanks in part to Nathan Fielder who was excellent as the cop who gets caught up in Dean’s experiments if only because every other fan of Dean’s plays it as if they are under his magical spell (the kids, in particular, guilty of acting like this). Fielder gave his role an understated deadpan that separated him from the rest of the characters. It made his shift from a guy who has Dean as his marriage hall pass to one who is pissed at Dean for making him miss his son’s soccer games feel like it was all coming from the same character. It wasn’t a flashy part, but Fielder did the job excellently.

One of the smarter things that The Grinder has started doing as of late is allowing Stewart and Dean to have goals that work in tandem, rather than constantly oppose each other, as in last week’s “Dedicating This One To The Crew.” Dean can still be the consummate winner without making Stewart the consummate loser. Stewart can still be the exasperated straight man who watches his brother always come out on top and, yet, win in his own way and accomplish his goals. Otherwise, Stewart becomes such a wet blanket, the Washington Generals of characters. But in “Buckingham Malice,” Stewart got to a accomplish his goal of getting his car early, while still wondering why Dean wanted to spend an extra night in jail. He got to have a victory, even if he did not fully understand Dean’s thought process. Stewart may not always like that his brother is able to live a better life than he is, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn to benefit from it.

Perhaps the most important plot wasn’t the A-plot, but was the B-plot because Debbie got to actually do something. For the first time, Debbie was portrayed as a character with a life that did not revolve around her children, her husband, or her brother-in-law. Since The Grinder started, Debbie has only augmented the role of others, she’s never had her own life outside of the home or even one outside of Stewart’s problems. But in “Buckingham Malice,” Debbie got to have a tangible job, a standing at that job, and an assistant. Her plot — her assistant was treating her more like an employee — was not revolutionary; Will & Grace ran that gag for eight seasons. But it’s important that Debbie got to do something, or at least be someone, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis was certainly up to the challenge. Hopefully Natalie Morales will get the same benefit of the doubt soon enough.

Stray observations

  • It’s funny that “Buckingham Malice” started with a British theme considering the director, Christine Gernon, is a noted British television director.
  • I was hoping the cold open would parody British crime shows the way it does American legal procedurals, but I did enjoy what defendant was accused of: “The jury finds Reginya Stillwell guilty on two counts of brazen tomfoolery and one count of brazen harlotry.”
  • The other cop along with Nathan Fielder was NASCAR driver Carl Edwards.
  • William Devane had some excellent comebacks in this episode including:
  • “He slept with that guy’s wife while wearing his face. I think that’s illegal.”
  • “Not in Europe.”
  • And “Just because you walk away after saying something doesn’t mean you’re right.”
  • “But it really does help.”
  • Todd pronouncing Farouk’s last name.
  • “I’m fine in spite of having to do things I’d never thought I’d have to do to survive in there. Like eat processed food. So I say let’s go to a nice restaurant and in all likelihood get a free meal.”