So I had this whole plan. I was going to make a list of my top 10 episodes, sprinkle them with some video clips and post it here. Except, the Internet is severely lacking in Mad About You videos. (Internet, get on that!) Even the videos you’d expect to see, like footage from The Alan Brady Show, or the great scene in Two Tickets to Paradise where Jamie pretends to be French. (Seriously one of the funniest things to ever air on TV.) But, no.
So instead, I’m pretty much only doing descriptions. Sorry, readers. And now, the blog:
After writing my theme song blog, I got a hankering to watch Mad About You again. It was one of my favorite shows growing up, and yet,I could really only remember one thing: the episode where Paul and Jamie go on vacation as Burt and Sylvia Buchman. Splink splink! That just wasn’t right. And thus began the Great Mad About You Rewatch.
So here’s the thing about this show: The first four years or so, it’s fantastic. It’s brilliant. It’s funny. It’s sweet. It’s realistic. I’ve never lived with a boy in a romantic setting myself, but I imagine it’s a lot like that – you and your partner are constantly adorable and hilarious, with your banter and smittenness.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? It takes a down turn after season four. I’m sorry, but it has to be said. I don’t want to sugar coat it for you all. There are still some standout episodes, and some moments that made me cry from laughing so hard. But for the most part, it’s just…not as good. They relied too much on over-the-top guest stars, got into therapy, and started acting more neurotic and crazy than necessary.
After I got to season five, and things weren’t going as well as I thought they would, I suddenly remembered: Mad About You was the first show to disappoint me. It was the first show I had watched consistently, and loved, that took a turn for the worse in its later years. Series that followed include Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 7), Angel (seasons 4-5) Gilmore Girls (seasons 6-7), Lois and Clark (season 4), Scrubs (everything after season 5), and ER (after making Carter a fucking drug addict…no I am still not over that) among others. The few shows that never crossed over? Northern Exposure, Sex and the City, Cheers, and Friends. (Yes, Friends. Take a second look at those later episodes.)
But anyway. So there’s that. However, in its heyday, the show was pretty much perfect, and the early seasons remain some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. So with that in mind, I give you my top 11 episodes.
11.) The Alan Brady Show: Paul’s doing a documentary on the history of television, and wants Alan Brady (played by Carl Reiner, who reprises his role from The Dick Van Dyke Show) to narrate it. The only problem? “He’s just so mean!” After Brady throws a fit and quits the project, Paul and Jamie hatch a scheme to get him back – which includes a hilarious parody of The Dick Van Dyke Show, complete with Helen Hunt’s spot-on impression of Mary Tyler Moore. One of my favorite parts of the episode is the cold open, which never fails to crack me up.
10.) New Sleepwalking PLUS: This is the season 4 opener. Jamie and Paul decide to start trying to have kids. Other things happen in the episode – Paul interview for a new job, Jamie has a pregnancy scare – but that’s all you really need to know. The final scene in the episode is this great discussion about when to start, when the timing is right, is the timing ever right, should I take this job so our kids will have money– so we’re really going to do this? And somehow, it remains funny. This episode also has a great cold open. I love it because it’s so something that would happen to me. In fact, this HAS happened to me.
9.) Weekend in LA: This is one of the gems from later in the series. Its from season 7. Paul is wooed by a fancy LA agent, and the two take a trip out west to meet with him. They leave baby Mabel at home for the first time. At first, Jamie misses her dearly. But after awhile, she gets out of “Mom mode” and remembers her life before kids. This comes to a climax when, while in a hot tub on a jet, (don’t ask, it makes sense in the context of the episode) Jamie blurts out, “Why did I ever have a baby?” Paul, understandably, gets upset, decides to cut the trip short, and goes home – without Jamie. A few hours later, Jamie comes home, all apologetic and gives this heart-wrenching speech about being a parent and looking back on her old life – a speech that reminded me why Helen Hunt won 4 Emmys. The show ends with Jamie singing “You Are My Sunshine” to Mabel. It’s all very sweet.
8.) The Finale: So technically, this is three episodes, but I’m just going to group them all into one. This is the finale – THE finale – the one where Paul and Jamie almost break up. This is on the list for a couple of reasons – the first of which is that it’s impeccably acted. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt always do a good job – but they are on firing on all cylinders in these episodes. I loved the episode, but after watching an interview with Reiser and Hunt about it, I appreciate it even more. In a nutshell, Reiser says, “First of all, we knew they weren’t going to break up. But we wanted to show people – look these people are crazy, head over heels for each other, and if even THEY have problems, marriage is really hard. It’s something you have to work on constantly.” I liked that. Maybe you have to hear the actual words from Reiser himself, but he really sold me. Plus it has one of my favorite endings to a season ever, one that does everything a season finale should: gives the audience hope and anticipation, and sets up the next year. And yeah, the music is cheesy, but I love it anyway.
7.) The Conversation: Another episode late in the run – Paul and Jamie decide to let Mabel cry herself to sleep, and spend the entire episode outside their bedroom door, waiting for her to stop crying. This is the famous “one shot” episode. However, that’s not why I like it. Sure, it is impressive. But more important, it’s a return to the earlier seasons. There’s no crazy family interrupting them, no flashy guest stars. It’s just Paul and Jamie, sitting on the floor, talking. Topics include winning a bunch of pasta at the grocery store, Jamie’s crush on Tom Brokaw, Paul discovering he’s shrinking, and whether or not they should move to the country. It’s both funny and sweet, and reminded me just how great Reiser and Hunt are together.
6.) Cold Feet: The episode where we learn how and when Paul proposed to Jamie. It’s one I wish there were clips for, because my words do not suffice. This episode has some hilarious throwaway lines and scenes, including Paul’s realization that, in a certain light, Jamie looks like Hannibal Lector, Jamie’s reaction to finding out Paul is going to propose (“He’s going to propose? Tonight? OH MY GOD!” — only she says this completely panicked). After talking to Ira, Paul decides against proposing, only Jamie thinks he IS proposing, so she’s all nervous, expectant, and then disappointed. In the end, he asks for her hand in marriage, and she, as we all know, says yes. Hands down one of the funniest episodes in the series.
5.) Cake Fear: The episode opens on Paul’s birthday, and the story weaves in and out from his current one to the previous four. There was the birthday where Jamie threw a surprise party and Lisa gave him sleeping pills; the one right after Mark left Fran; the one with a freak snowstorm in May where no one showed up; and the one right after Paul and Jamie got engaged. Jamie gets angry when Paul goes on his annual birthday walk alone. They fight, but Paul smooths things over:
I’m going to tell you what I was thinking about, the whole time I’m out there. I’m walking along and I’m looking back at the year and I’m going ‘Hey! Remember this? Hey! Remember that?’ and I see all these people, they’re looking at me because I’m talking to myself but they don’t know I’m talking to you! And all of a sudden, I realize I’ve figured it out — I now have somebody else to walk with, for the rest of my life. That’s what I was thinking about. But you know what? You’re right, you’re right, it’s my birthday, I don’t have to discuss it if I don’t want to.I’m going to have cake.
4.) How to Fall in Love: Another episode that focuses just on Paul and Jamie. It opens at Riffs, where Paul is trying to write a script for a how-to video on picking up girls. Jamie scoffs at the idea, especially at the thought of Paul having any knowledge on the subject. So they spend the episode trying to pick each other up. Paul finally gets her in the end, telling her all about his wonderful wife. Sweet and simple.
3.) Two Tickets to Paradise: See above, in the introduction. LOVE this episode. It’s the only one I remembered years after watching the show. (Though, to be fair to all other episodes, once I started The Great Rewatch, plot lines, characters, lines, etc. came flooding back to me.) Everything about this episode is golden, from Jamie’s hilarious French accent, to Paul acting like his father, to the dancing in the room, to everyone thinking Paul is crazy …four words: Guava, guava, splink splink! LOVE IT. Here’s just some of the brilliance:
2.) Same Time Next Weekend: It was a hard decision to put this at the number two slot. It could be number one. In this episode, Paul goes out of town for six weeks to shoot a movie in Chicago. He comes home on the weekends. It’s a wonderful representation of how we get used to living with someone, and how we get used to living alone. The first week, Jamie is all excited for him to come home, and he enters the apartment, enraged at a cab driver. Week two, he has grown a beard, which Jamie hates. Week three, he gets snowed in and has to stay in Chicago. Week four, his mother shows up after Jamie told her Paul would be gone for the weekend. Week five, they discover they’re used to sleeping on their own, and week six they both surprise one another – she goes to Chicago, while he finishes his movie early so he can be home with her sooner. And so they’re apart for one more night. Here’s a bit of dialogue from week three. It’s all in the delivery, really, but this is a bit I had to rewind several times, it was so funny:
Paul: I’m nibbling your ear..
Jamie: Oh, I like that.
Paul: And I’m going down your body..
Jamie: I love that!
Paul: And I’m kissing your knees..
Jamie: What niece? I don’t have a niece.
Paul: Your KNEES!
Jamie: Oh, my knees! I’m sorry!
and the number one episode is….(drumroll, please)
1.) Met Someone: The story of how Paul and Jamie met: At a news stand, they both want the last copy of The New York Times. Jamie gets it, but drops her dry cleaning receipt. Paul picks it up and goes in search of “J. Stemple.” He shows up at her office the next day with her dry cleaning, and asks her out. They attend her company Christmas party, and discover odd coincidences, like they live on the same block and have never met. (How When Harry Met Sally of the writers.) Before leaving the party for the night, Jamie spontaneously kisses Paul, then denies it. And the rest is history.
Some honorable mentions:
Best cold open of all time:
Favorite Lisa moment:
Hell yeah, we can:
and last but not least: I am so Jamie in this scenario:
Video(s) of the Day: I’m going out of town tomorrow, joining the millions of others on the road for Thanksgiving. So I don’t imagine I’ll be updating again until December. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am grateful for many things, including my family, my friends, a good job, a kick ass apartment, President-Elect Obama and, among the frivolous: YouTube, my DVR, my iPod, musical theater, NPH, Tina Fey, 30 Rock, the beauty of Michael C. Hall, the remote for my computer, and The West Wing. With that in mind:
I loved that scene with Jamie singing to Mabel. Even though I watched that years ago, I can still remember the anguish, almost guilty expression of Jamie’s face as she sang. It was such a sweet and poignant moment. I thought I was the only one who thought that was a special TV moment, especially since there was nothing about it on Youtube. I’m so glad someone else remembered it as well!