Ground Floor Season 2 Episode 10 Review: “The Proposal – Part II”

Ground Floor

Underneath Ground Floor‘s studio sitcom hijinks and cable-friendly humor palette is a grounded comedy about personal growth, set in a professional setting. Watching any single episode may not capture the latter as well as the former; I’ve always thought part of Ground Floor’s struggle was its idea of presenting modern comedic structures (that is, serialization and layered character work) within the traditional format and rhythms of a studio sitcom. Ground Floor is fantastic at both, but the latter is easier to determine out of context; at times, Ground Floor‘s character-building is quite subtle for a 22-minute cable multi-cam, something only dedicated viewers of the show will be able to acknowledge.

“The Proposal – Part II” makes this distinction between the show’s dual identities a little more overt than any of its previous 19 episodes, thanks to the road trip to Vegas: there’s a careful construction of the episode to put a majority of its biggest emotional moments in scenes shot on location, giving a cinematic quality to its character scenes that previous episodes could never take advantage of. It takes advantage of the situation, pushing Jenny and Mansfield to deal with serious emotional hang-ups bubbling to the surface with the ring in Brody’s backpack; though it turns out to be the ring Mansfield’s daughter would wear, Jenny thinks the ring is for her, and predictably begins to freak out.

Now, the opening beats of this story are mostly told inside; it’s here where the show’s comedic sensibilities are able to play front and center on stage, where the reality of the world feels a little more constructed. Inside is where Jenny runs out of their hotel bathroom to avoid him (and also because he just left it in bad shape), and inside is where Mansfield’s post-desert stroll temper tantrum takes place; in the heightened, artificial reality of stage comedy, these jokes play well, and give a little extra dramatic edge to the culminating stories taking place within them.

Those season-long threads begin to get yanked on when Ground Floor takes things outside, and moves to the single-camera set-up: the natural light grounds the most important moments of the season, when Mansfield reconciles with the other surrogate son he’s brought into his life, and Jenny finally comes to realize the real reason she didn’t want to get married to Brody. As the show often does, it brings these to light by bringing Jenny and Mansfield together, a trick the show’s used since season one to bring the show’s most dichotomous relationship together (financially and professionally, they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum; emotionally, they’re one and the same); and it leads to two of the show’s most beautiful scenes, scenes accented by the cinematography of Mansfield’s massive hotel suite (the only interior shot in single camera) and Jenny’s proposal to Brody on the roof, the emotional high point of the entire series, a wonderful payoff of the core story Ground Floor‘s built for two seasons.

While it does isolate the main players from the secondary cast, this distinction is necessary in giving the emotional centerpieces the weight they deserve; and boy, does it come together for three beautiful scenes. Brody’s speech to Jenny outside the hotel about them being a great couple sets the stage for the other two, which are driven by John C. McGinley and Briga Heelan’s breathtaking performances in their respective scenes. It’s a tall task for both to deliver. Mansfield’s story has to raise the emotional stakes enough for the final scene, which is hard to do being based on a daughter and son-in-law we haven’t spent any time with. By the same token, Jenny’s proposal is everything the show’s built toward for two seasons, so it’s importance can’t be understated. And everything comes together, leading to a pair of scenes that sit against anything else the show’s done.

What’s happening in those studio scenes is no slouch, either; Harvard and Lindsay’s adventures give a nice comedic counterpart when Jenny and Mansfield’s stories get serious, and also lead to their own emotional (if slightly rushed) conclusion. Lindsay’s realization that Harvard can’t be her rock not only feels genuine to the character, but gives Harvard’s character a distinct direction to go moving forward; it’s time for Harvard to mature a little bit, something Ground Floor would need to do if it were to continue, as funny as his behavior has been for two seasons (and yes, I know about that rumor – I’ll wait until TBS says anything before I acknowledge it).

Of course, their story is really only secondary to Brody and Jenny’s (more of a 2B to Mansfield’s 2A, even), which Ground Floor pays off in fantastic fashion – and then doubles down on, pushing Threepeat and Heather’s desperate states to the limit, when they decide to get married in the season’s closing tag. Those final three minutes are a culmination of everything Ground Floor’s accomplished in its surprisingly ambitious second season, which stands against any romantic comedy I’ve seen on either the big or small screen in a long, long time. And “The Proposal – Part II” brings that to a close in near-flawless fashion, a signature half-hour to what still remains television’s most underrated comedy.

[Photo via TBS]

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  1. Ariel Bereslavsky

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