“Louie Meets the Folks”
To get out in front of it, a lot of “Louie Meets the Folks” centers around you buying the idea that Rhea Perlman is the daughter of a minister. To be honest, everything else about the episode works — Louie, upon being forced by Zena to meet her parents, pays Alex to come along and make sure he says nothing stupid, which he does — unless you think about whether or not Rhea Perlman’s Zena could have come from these people, and the conclusion you probably have to come away with is a hard no. This is too much to buy. (They didn’t even try that hard — they could have made her family Italian Catholics, á la Cheers.)
That’s not really to say that I wish Perlman’s family had been portrayed as Jewish, since network sitcoms don’t have a particularly strong history of doing so in any kind of respectful way. But it’s difficult to watch the episode in 2016 and not feel that, despite many of the show’s producers being Jewish, Zena’s ethnicity is being mainstreamed, and it’s distracting.
Otherwise there is little to say much about; Louie is his usual self, despite Alex’s presence, and Zena’s mother threatens to hire a hitman to take Louie out should he and Zena begin talking about marriage. The usual.
“Jim Gets a Pet”
Tony, Bobby, and Alex, who you think would know better, introduce Jim to gambling at the racetracks, which he picks up like, well, an addict. He begins going every day, funded by Louie, until he comes back to the office with his winnings: $10,000 worth of his winning racehorse, freshly purchased from the race. Jim tries to let him out onto the street, to obtain his freedom, but everyone else stops him, and he takes the horse, which he names Gary, home. The horse eventually dies there, and Jim gives a moving speech at the end of the episode, ending it on a strong note.
Typing all that out, it feels as though “Jim Gets a Pet” was planned in reverse. One of Jim’s, and Christopher Lloyd, stronger suits is giving emotionally poignant speeches that don’t really feel like they belong in a sitcom but feel as though they belong in this one. OK, so he should give a speech. What about? Something dying is emotionally poignant, but it shouldn’t be a cast member. People love dogs too much…what about a horse? And so on.
In this regard “Jim Gets a Pet” is a perfect sitcom episode, hitting every note squarely on the nose, which is often more difficult than it sounds — see the above episode. The little notes — Tony cracking walnuts bare-fisted (“That’s me, pal!” he told Hailing Taxi when asked. “There were a couple I couldn’t do.”), Jim’s apartment being, of course, in a condemned building — are the show hitting its stride and thriving there. It’s about where the show will remain for the next few years.
Here’s Jim’s speech, which is absolutely worth building an episode around: