Second Look: Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 9 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter”

Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter

Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 9 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter”
Written by Kenny Schwartz & Rick Wiener
Directed by Gordon Hunt
Aired May 6, 1998 on NBC

After a couple opening episodes about young, goofy professionals finding their way in turn-of-the-century capitalism, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place shifted its formula to become something slightly more shapeless in the middle third of this first season: a show about three young, horny professionals doing everything they can to get laid (and stop each other from getting laid, seemingly). Though still in its infancy, it’s clear the Two Guys and a Girl writing team were getting comfortable with a very specific format: Berg engineers a potential romantic situation for him and Pete, and comedy ensues (Sharon somehow gets sucked into these hijinks, of course). It’s simple structurally, leaning on the comedic strengths of his performers to carry a mixed bag of punch lines and physical gags, and often featured one or two featured guest performers for our protagonists to bounce off for 22 minutes. “Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter” is definitely one of those episodes – but it’s neither the worst nor the best of what the format would offer the series, thanks to a few obvious, fairly debilitating flaws.

The biggest error here, and one later seasons would go to great lengths to try to rectify, are the romantic counterparts for our three protagonists (and forget Sharon, whose men have been mostly off screen, save for Ted in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy”). As a series of one-off characters, their early potential pursuits all suffer from the Seinfeld problem – none of them feel like particularly meaningful additions to each episode, one-off characters reduced to a simple gimmick… or it was Melissa, who Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place clearly struggled to figure out before writing her out of the series in “Two Guys, a Girl and an Apartment” (at least canonically, given how this season aired its episodes… yes, she will return). Given all that, the premise of Pete meeting a girl from the Chance Encounters section of the newspaper feels like a plot that’s pretty DOA – a notion “Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter” is never quite able to dispel.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter

At this point, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place has a pretty firm grasp on its central odd couple; Berg is the engine of plot and comedic energy, allowing Pete to be the reactionary member of the group (and the perfect candidate to get connected with a series of odd strangers, naturally). Molly, the woman Pete reluctantly meets after Berg pretends to be him on the phone, is really just a cipher for their relationship – and it is remarkably consistent, from Pete’s unearned optimism, to Berg’s ineffectiveness at thinking on his feet when his best-laid plans begin going to shit.

And go to shit they do; midway through the episode, Molly reveals herself to be certifiably insane (threatening Berg and Sharon with a baseball bat, should they try to come between her and Pete), and “Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter” pretty quickly goes off the rails – and unlike “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team”, there’s no confident, hilarious cinematic homage to fill in the void (though there are some incredibly light Melrose Place and Fatal Attraction vibes to this episode I do enjoy).

What does that leave? Unfortunately, a lot of silly farce where Berg and Pete are both caught on their heels – in a way that throws the episode a bit off-kilter, which it never quite recovers from. It doesn’t help the end of the episode is an utter throwaway; Pete rids everyone of Molly offscreen, placing a fake Chance Encounters ad for someone who lives in Seattle, knowing the insane(-ly forward thinking, having a scrapbook and baby names picked out for Pete) woman will disappear to the west coast, never to see or speak to him again (ahh, the days before social media and Google, where a person could really just disappear into the void of time… miss those days).

Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter

Regardless, the episode does nothing with Molly’s presence to make this an interesting entry; “Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter” feels like its coasting from the first scene, letting a mildly amusing, vapid script be carried by its trio of capable performers – who, to their credit, are able to engineer a few laughs purely out of their on-screen chemistry and comedic timing. There certainly was room for “a Chance Encounter” to find its way into something a bit more resonant, either through exploring Berg’s discomfort with change, or Pete’s incredible naivete when it comes to women and careers.

Strangely, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Chance Encounter” leans in neither direction, a tepid episode from beginning to end, one lacking in the charm of previous episodes, the laughs of recent episodes – or the pathos of any episode, as pure a definition of ‘middling’ as this first season has to offer. Not a terrible episode, but a thoroughly forgettable, incidental half hour of underwhelming comedy.

Grade: C-

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Berg directs a goth who walked into the wrong Chance Encounter: “You’re looking for Peterson St… Coffee and Bondage.”
  • Pete rushes Dr. Bauer through a Sleepless in Seattle reference; at this point, even Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place is getting bored of this character, especially when existing within the walls of Beacon Street Pizza.
  • Pete sings the same Monkees song he did in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery”.
  • “This is a very weird dream… that is a very big hat!”
  • Who would take a picture of someone sleeping and frame it in a mural? Truly psychopathic shit.
  • Berg: “Sit, so you can marvel at my big brain.”
  • Pete’s gamble to offer running out and eloping is so short-sighted and dumb… and yet, it works, so what do I know.
  • The episode ends with Sharon screaming at the man she was hoping to meet from the paper, terrified after witnessing Pete’s experience.
  • Up next: Berg makes a delivery, and a sexy discovery in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Delivery”.

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