Second Look: Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 7 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery”

Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery

Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 7 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery”
Written by Danny Jacobson
Directed by Marjorie Weitzman
Aired April 22, 1998 on ABC

“Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery” is a tale of two very different episodes, and an interesting litmus test for what is working (and more presciently, what is not) so far as Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place hits the halfway mark of its freshman season. One of these two stories is a slightly heartwarming, goofy story about a man desperate to make a connection – and the other, a desperately unfunny story of a jackal fucking with the lives of everyone around them.

From the beginning, there’s something about “a Recovery” that feels a smidge askew – probably where the episode begins with Pete and Berg bringing home two middle-aged women to hook up with. Pete’s inability to small talk causes the women to leave, of course, which sets the stage for the episode to follow: Berg hooking Pete up with Lauren, a patient at the student hospital he’s studying at, all in the pursuit of helping him get over Melissa (though he was fawning over Pinball Girl for three months in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team”, it’s only been two months since he broke up with her – look, Pete’s continuity is a bit of a mess in these early episodes).

Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery

Like “Softball Team” before it, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery” takes the premise “dudes trying to get laid” and uses it to middling effect; and like most of the episodes so far this season, “a Recovery” is at its most interesting when it is subverting its own premise. Here, it’s a bit more subtle than shifting into meaningful character moment or formal experimentation, bifurcating itself along the lines of its two male protagonists (Sharon, unfortunately, is left in the background, ironically dating a marine biologist).

It’s an interesting idea on a script level – as the first episode credited to any of the show creators, it certainly seems in a perfect position to reflect and evolve on its format a bit. But in execution, it comes off extremely unevenly: “Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery” foregrounds Berg’s scrambling attempts to cover up his mistakes (he thinks the girl he connected Berg with is going to die soon), over Pete’s almost-innocent joy about experiencing happiness for the first time since him and Melissa broke up.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery

How it plays out, is as strange as it sounds; though it connects them both with some really broad comedic strokes (Pete singing The Monkees, Berg lamenting about the fact women want more in relationships), there’s a huge disparity in how Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place has calibrated its two male protagonists. Pete and Berg are clearly modeled on The Odd Couple (as so many shows have been), which means their personality clashes and disagreements should feel harmonic – or at least, give the audience something to invest in with both characters.

The attempt to do this in “a Recovery” fails miserably in this regard, employing a particularly annoying, misogynistic Berg alongside a smitten, jubilant Pete; but with Berg driving the story (which turns out to be farcical, when it is revealed Berg was wrong about thinking Lauren would die), we’re mostly left to experience a lot of ugly, juvenile Berg antics, of which both writer and performer were clearly still trying to figure out.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery

By focusing so much on Berg’s scrambling, it leaves little room to engage with Pete’s earnest attempts to be happy – and when it does, it is at least a bit charming, if not a bit unbelievable. After all, we’re supposed to buy that Pete is ready to commit to a woman he just met, after he just told his long-term girlfriend he didn’t want her to live near him? It’s a tough sell – and even though Richard Ruccolo does a terrific job selling the idea (his singing? Pretty good!), his sudden change of heart, though something that makes his character much more endearing, is jarring enough that the nascent attempts the episode gives us to explain it are disappointing.

(It’s also hard to buy the episode’s conclusion, knowing future episodes of this season are going to continue to deal with Melissa, even though Pete ostensibly puts that relationship to bed for good at the episode’s end).

While I appreciate the humor in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery” – there are some good jokes in this episode that continue the growing definition of this show’s voice, including Berg’s “Ok, I need to see someone’s rectum” joke – it’s an absolute mess on a story level, a sloppy endeavor that does two-thirds of its titular characters absolutely no favors in their development. This episode, despite separating them to observe their very different approaches to life and love, ultimately don’t have a lot to add to the conversation – which, in a vacuum, is fine, but in an episode dying to have a guiding thought or unifying idea, sticks out like a sore thumb. Seven episodes in, and it’s clear Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place is finding its voice in fits and starts; however, “a Recovery” is proof there’s still a lot of work to be done in sanding down the show’s rough edges, and finding the right balance between its many competing creative elements.

Grade: C-

Other thoughts/observations:

  • One thing I’m glad the show moves away from: Pete and Berg being enormous slobs.
  • Mr. Bauer’s Grease references are mostly lame, but his admonishment of Bill’s pizza – “I’m afraid…. Grease is the word” – is a pretty good one.
  • Pete says the pizza of the day is the “talk of the sausage community”, which is just dumb enough to make me laugh.
  • Lauren is played by Rena Sofer, who ironically had starred on General Hospital – and who would soon go on to play Eve Clearly in that insane 35-episode final season of Melrose Place.
  • Berg hits a new low point in this episode, when he proposes Sharon fuck Pete to help him out of his supposed “slump”.
  • “You’re in Coloardo, which is so far…” Berg: “Not if you’re in Denver!”
  • Sharon, upon learning that she’s a rebound girlfriend: “Beats renting videos.”
  • Up next: Berg holds Pete’s 30th birthday party a few years too early in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Party”.

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