Richard Kind is an amazing comedy actor and yet it only feels like people are really recognising this now with his recent roles in Inside Out, The Other Two and Red Oaks. But he was a sitcom mainstay for many years and though best known for Spin City he’s appeared in a great deal of other shows, including this one off where he’s the best friend of the lead Bill (Mitch Rouse), who’s apparently the angriest man in the suburbia, and though Rouse is an appealing lead it’s Kind who generates the majority of the big laughs.
It sets up it’s stall early on with a display of just why Bill is such a moody arse as he and his best friend Josh (Kind) wait in line at a video store and are held up by an annoying woman who keeps asking for a Robin Williams film but can’t remember which one she wants, and after making a phone call to her sister where she starts chatting away about her life Josh wanders over, takes the phone and stamps on it. He thinks he’s a hero for doing this and a short while later during a very funny phone call Josh gushes about how amazing this act was, but calls him a sociopath and you can’t really argue. During the phone call Bill is still driving home from the video store, and after he hangs up he starts to think he’s going a bit mad when his GPS starts giving him life advice like “You need to let things slide, Bill” and “Being angry is no way to go through life”, it’s a cute beginning which illustrates both of their characters well and though not hilarious it’s mostly amusing.
Once home his long suffering wife Allison (Maria Pitillo) gives us an exposition dump where we find out that they’re newly relocated to California having left New York due to her job. Bill asks her if she thinks he’s an angry person and she softens the blow by claiming “You’re an idealist…And you just can’t handle it when people behave like idiots” rather than telling the truth and saying that he has serious issues and needs to get help immediately before he smashes the phone of someone with a short temper who brutally beats him to death. His wife is partially correct in that when away from idiots Bill does seem like a semi-decent sort at least, as is illustrated in a scene the next morning where he messes about and sings a daft song about milk with his kids, in a much needed scene to show he can be likeable when he wants to be.
Still, this is a comedy about an angry, stroppy man so it’s inevitably not long before he’s in another situation where he gets to act like a bit of a bastard, this time dumping a full nappy in the car seat of someone who parked across two spaces, amusingly comparing his actions to being like those of Batman. There’s a couple of other similar moments in the episode including a scene when a guy smokes a cigar near his young baby and so he throws it in a fountain, it’s understandable behaviour but perhaps could be a bit funnier.
Fortunately his scenes with Richard Kind are full of great lines as they both complain about their lives and Kind wistfully comments “I would give my left testicle for one minute a day of silence…silence…Is that too much to ask”, and when neighbour Chuck suggests Bill’s kid Mikey should be allowed to play with guns there’s a fantastic gag where Chuck’s son quotes the second amendment in full. Also fun is the b-plot where Mikey wants to play with a kid called Trevor who’s clearly a shit as he swears and pisses in public, and Bill doesn’t want this so he frames Trevor for accidentally damaging Mikey’s drawing. It might not sound hilarious but the scene’s well orchestrated, the dialogue strong and Trevor’s such an annoying twat that it’s enjoyable seeing him suffer.
It ends with one final encounter with the video stop customer which Allison has engineered, and Bill of course can’t help himself and they end up fighting like little kids, mirroring an altercation between Trevor and Mikey shortly before. Bill’s once again pleased with himself for being so mean, claiming they should put up a statue describing him as the “Vanquisher of Evil”, and then it has a surprisingly saccharine ending where Bill drives home and in a beautifully lit scene he becomes aware that happiness is being with his family, which is completely out of place with the tone of the rest of the episode and doesn’t really fit with everything that’s come before.
It’s not the most amazing show ever and compared to some of the pilots covered here it’s fairly middle of the road stuff, but it is fun and by network tv standards quite impressive, with the performances all strong and for once the child actors aren’t annoying. It could have had more fun with the concept of Bill being twatty, the repercussions of such behaviour, and even more of Richard Kind’s character, but then perhaps that would have developed if it had been commissioned. Alas we’ll never know, but if it had been given a full series I’d definitely have watched it.