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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – Pants Full of Sandwiches (1×07)

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Sunnyside has the standard sitcom structure of an A story (the main conflict of the week) with a B and sometimes C story (one or two smaller, often unrelated conflicts). So far some of the B and C stories have been stronger than the A story, and tonight’s episode is an example of this.

Brady and the twins B story involves the twins losing their riches and needing to learn how to be poor people. Brady offers to coach them, which naturally leads us to a reveal that Brady is great at putting on different personalities. He goes from realtor to snooty art critic with ease, providing us an insightful look at his personality and a much needed dose of competence to a character who has been the punchline too many times.

The twins are also better defined by the episode’s end, and I can’t just refer to them as “the twins” for the rest of this paragraph because their personalities are becoming distinct enough that they are two separate characters. Mei Lin has secretly been saving money, proving once again that a character has a level of competence we weren’t privy to before. She wants to teach Jun Ho a lesson about the importance of saving, so she allows him to believe they’ve become poor. Jun Ho is excited about having learned a lesson at the end of the episode, implying that he has grown as a person. This is a good storyline and develops all three characters further.

The A story isn’t as effective. Griselda’s partner Michelle is revealed and they are preparing to be interviewed regarding the legitimacy of their relationship so Griselda can get a green card. Their relationship is barely explored before they are put on edge by Garret’s drunken tirade (he has his own relationship problems), and so their rift doesn’t feel as real or raw as it could. Their biggest disagreement comes down to money, but their real problem is Griselda’s refusal to discuss uncomfortable topics. Of course, in the end she does and everyone is happy, but the lesson is imparted to us by smashing a hammer over our heads.

Garret’s relationship drama isn’t a direct parallel to Griselda’s; it’s created for it. Nothing about it feels as real as it should because it is so clearly set up just to give Griselda and Michelle their conflict and happy ending. The lesson Garret learns is spoken to him with an obvious declaration so there is no nuance to the storytelling. Garret can absolutely come to this conclusion on his own. The same issue was present in last week’s episode.

The worst part is that it is completely within what we know about Garret for him to be torn up about his ex. Last week we saw how desperate he is for companionship and a romantic pining is a natural extension of this. But since Garret’s side of this story is so completely written to prop up Griselda and Michelle’s, none of his despair is truly explored, as is none of his acceptance of the fact that it’s over. He gets sad about it and then learns a lesson when he’s told to. The plot points are there, but there is no deeper connection to the character.

Jun Ho’s lesson is explicitly stated to him as well, so it isn’t like the B story is any less heavy handed. The difference is that we see the depths of Jun Ho’s struggle and the conniving nature of Mei Lin. We see how these events are affecting them, and we smile when Jun Ho smiles at having learned his lesson and grown as a person. It’s a personal journey for these particular characters. No one else on the show could produce this storyline. Anyone could be sad over their breakup and moan about the injustices of love. What did that mean to Garret, though?

Sunnyside needs to be widely relatable because its main topic of gaining citizenship is something that affects a lot of us in this country. However, the show has spread that relatability into blandness by putting its characters into situations that require little from their personalities. The show needs to put more focus on the unique traits of its characters and explore the kind of situations only they would get into. The best mix of the two worlds came from “Scnorf Town,” when Griselda was being interviewed about affording her rent while dressed up in flashy clothes provided by Mei Lin and Jun Ho. It was character specific while covering a relatable topic, so I know the show can do it. I just hope it finds a way to hit that sweet spot more often.

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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – Skirt-Skirt (1×06)

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Social situations like parties are always a great way to push your characters into new situations, and the Halloween party on this week’s Sunnyside pays off in spades.

The script is still a little heavy handed, such as when Garret flat out asks his “friends” if they’d even hang with him if he didn’t get them into clubs. We definitely could have seen Garret come to that conclusion on his own and it probably would have made it a little more powerful, but still, this is growth we see in action and not just in words. Hakim’s kind words to Garret that he means something to them as a friend is affective because we saw with our own eyes what friendship really means to Garret by watching him attempt to regain these old connections and we see his desperation for friendship as he befriends the young boy down the hall in Mallory’s apartment building.

The twins fight was also a success. We got to see their individual personalities a bit more by having them be separated, and watching them reconcile through action instead of words is exactly what visual media does best.

Unfortunately this episode was the episode that has the least to do with the immigrants gaining citizenship, which suggests that the series still has a ways to go in mixing the character work with its premise. Tonight’s episode was a step forward character wise so hopefully the mix will come more naturally going forward.

Other Thoughts:

  • Never give out raisins for Halloween.

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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – Schnorf Town (1×05)

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Sunnyside finally gives us a tangible reason as to how Garret remained in office for so long. He is great on television in the  Sunnyside universe, which is apparently all the public cares about. This allows him to help Diana talk about her new affordable housing bill on “Queen’s Today.”

I had high hopes for the episode when the twins’ makeover of Griselda made her look rich and counteracted Diana’s attempts to display someone affected by overpriced rent. It’s always great when the characters get themselves into bad situations like this, especially when it is so specific to their personalities.

There is still something that doesn’t quite click for me, though. I understand the hyperbolic (though closer to reality than I’d like to admit) news program the show goes for, and I like that the show criticizes this kind of reporting by telling the viewers (both in universe and the audience) not to get their news from these sources, but it’s such a baseline statement without much story to back it. We don’t really see exactly how these programs are damaging the Sunnyside universe asides from being told they are, and we can’t depend on solely relating it to our reality because of the hyperbolic nature of it all. Even still, we should have explicit examples of how Garret was terrible for the city, and since he was kept in office due to his television presence, this would have shown us a direct consequence to this sort of reporting and left a more powerful message on changing this system.

I like Mallory and Hakim bonding, and Hakim is the fullest character so far. He is complex with the desire to practice medicine but still stay on the right side of the law, yet he has flaws, such as giving into that temptation. He still will give out lollipops after his illegal appointments, though, because his positivity never ceases to leak out of him.

 

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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – Mondale (1×04)

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This is the last week that Sunnyside will be airing live on NBC, as from here on out episodes will be made available for streaming instead. So how did the show bow out?

The cast is split into smaller groups again, with Garret going with Jun Ho and Mei Lin, and Griselda, Hakim, and Brady dealing with Griselda’s son Eric’s musical.

The bonding between Garret and the half twins is pretty effective. Having to create a fake business together highlights their different talents and allows them to organically learn new things about each other. We find out that Jun Ho and Mei Lin are half twins, which is pretty funny and has. . .interesting implications regarding their father. It isn’t much of a surprise to learn that the twins’ father is neglectful, but Garret standing up for them at the end is more effective than his defense of Drazen last week because we actually see them bond and see how Garret feels attached to them due to the part he played in their fake business.

I’m having trouble keeping track of Garret’s character, though. Is he a competent wordsmith or not? The second episode he was easily outsmarted by both the lawyer and Hakim, and this week he’s able to fool the right hand man of an elite businessman. It’s inconsistent and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to believe that Garret is competent or that everyone else is dumb enough to fall for his obvious lies.

The musical storyline could have been awesome. Garret proclaiming the inaccuracies of Eric’s play is a great way to show how much Garret has learned about American history. I would have liked to see more characters take this cue, with other characters like the twins taking the opposite, and believing that the play was factual. It would have been an organic way to show us who is progressing and who isn’t.

I’m not sure what the lesson to be learned with Griselda’s storyline is. I like the idea that Hakim and Brady shouldn’t interfere, since she’s trying to support her son because he will have opportunities that she never had, but Eric is really taking advantage of her. It’s one thing for her to put her finances towards his dream and its another to have Eric pushing her around to do his laundry. The message would have been clearer if Eric really was just oblivious, and not just a brat. Maybe this is to give us insight into Griselda’s parenting style, but with her strictness with the twins last week, it seems contradictory that she’s such a pushover with her own son. I could see this being a dichotomy of the character, but the ending of Eric giving her the money was played pretty straight, which suggests this won’t be explored much further and is approved by the show.

Brady had the best showing tonight, even though we have no idea why he hates musicals so much. There is a trend in Sunnyside so far where characters exclaim things about themselves without backing them up. Brady’s musical distaste was a solid through line, and it added even more weight to his objections to how Eric treats his mom, but it would have been stronger if we were given some reason as to why Brady dislikes musicals so much, even if it was as mundane as “I don’t like when people sing.” There have been multiple episodes now where Brady takes a personal hit to help his friends, and I feel he’s becoming attached to them – not because anyone has told me, but because he’s come to the defense of them several times.

At the end of the day, some of the characters are getting filled out (Hakim, Brady), some are still hovering around tropes (the rich twins with father issues), and some are getting more confusing by the episode (Garret, Griselda). Hopefully some consistency is right around the corner.

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