And so the first season of Playing House goes out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Only the whimper is the whimper of a newborn baby, so it's a good whimper. Only it's not so much a whimper as it is a cry, but once a baby's done crying, it whimpers? Do babies whimper?
Technically the season finale's a (loose) two-parter, but the climax of the whole whimperbang revolves around Maggie in the delivery room, and one of the sweetest, earned-est goddamn delivery room scenes in the history of George Clooney operating with a gun to his head (I have no idea if that ever happened; my mom would watch ER while doing knee exercises, I just absorbed it through the walls). In nearly any other context, Emma's invocation of Maggie's parents' funeral as she despairs giving the final birthin' pushes would feel so unbelievably maudlin for pretty obvious reasons. Here, though, once the initial shock-laugh subsides, it's downright tearjerking, not because of the content (dead parents) so much as the depth of Maggie and Emma's bestfriendship on display there.
Television being a week-to-week medium makes it so wonderfully suited to portraying friendships that feel real and vital and fucking fun, and in the last little while it's really started to make good on that promise. You don't even need to dip into deep cuts to find an embarrassment of riches (the treasure is their friendship!): Abby and Ilana, Troy and Abed, Finn and Jake, Mordecai and Rigby, Skinny Pete and Badger, Rizzoli and Isles(?), Franklin and Bash(???). And, you know, Cheers. Thelma and Louise have nowhere to go together but over the cliff, but on TV they'd roll out of the wreckage laughing in disbelief at the beginning of the next season. And how jazzed does it get you watching people love and support and make fun of each other and finish their sentences for them? Or generate their hypothetical lesbian wedding attire (tankini two-piece/sleeveless white tuxedo top and Hugo Boss capris) on the spot?
Even Maggie and Emma accidentally (and then intentionally, because who can resist a Block Island invite with cashmere take-homes) Faking It as a lesbian couple for Dr. Jay—Garcelle Beauvais, of the widow's-peak-that-just-won't-quit—doesn't rankle like it might. Partially because it's never really a plot point beyond just ratcheting up the "OH FUCK" of the whole delivering-a-baby hysteria—within which a fully-tribal-scarfed Zach Woods, newly-certified as a doula, is an island of mystic calm—but mostly because yeah duh they love each other, they're just not smoochin'. But they're going to raise a baby together, to be a senator or a cosmonaut or just to pierce ears at Claire's.
I don't know whether the fact that a USA comedy is doing its part to concretely expand the definition of love is a credit to Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, to the state of modern comedy, modern television, or the USA network (probably not that last one). Playing House's second finale chunk mostly seems to be there to say, "We delivered this baby, and we can keep it alive, too!" but shows like these that revolve around friendship, the most infinite love of all, have that shaggy ongoingness in their DNA. Here's hoping for a season 2, and then a billion more, forever, until the sun crashes into the moon or whatever. Just gimme more human goodness.
[Image via USA]