Second Look: Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 4 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game”

Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game

Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 4 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game”
Written by Michelle Milzow
Directed by John Fortenberry
Aired April 1, 1998 on ABC

Early in its life, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place would derive a lot of its narrative function from a very simple idea, one we can only describe as “man-child shenanigans”. The premises of these endeavors are near-identical – Berg twists Pete into a knot over his carefree lifestyle – though in the first three episodes, it comes almost exclusively from Berg’s self-imposed medical experiments. “Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game” is the first episode without that crutch; and it is definitely all the better for it, even in an episode that lays bare some of the elements of the young series that already need some retinkering.

One of the elements I always enjoyed about Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place was its engagement with Boston sports; characters wear Boston memorabilia, episodes take place at sporting events – and later on, a certain prominent late 1990’s Boston Red Sox infielder would become an important part of the show’s central narrative. In this episode, it is merely the catalyst; when Berg reluctantly agrees to go to a Celtics game with the overemphatic Pete and the rest of the gang, he ends up winning a courtside seat, which throws Pete into a tornado of childish jealousy.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game

As a conflict, it isn’t particularly interesting – but it is the first opportunity for the series to build an honest conflict between the two of them, one not driven by the convenient whims of Berg’s medical experiments. In theory, this would prove an opportunity to ground Berg a bit when he frustrates his best friend – unfortunately, Pete’s behavior is so cartoonishly petulant, it only works to justify Berg’s point of view, rather than leveling the playing field and allowing logic and emotion to define their dissonance for once.

And from there, the episode immediately drops the pretense of its conflict; after Berg steals one of the Celtics championship banners (which… they never really explain the mechanics of?), the episode cops out and prioritizes the superficial drama of that decision. Ultimately, it relies on the same tricks of the first three episodes – except here, Berg is presumably completely sober, which just makes his rash decision even stupider. The only real panic and tension coming when the news of the banner’s theft gets out, and Bill promises to ban the people responsible – a scene mostly between Pete and Bill, which only serves to further the episode’s imbalanced priorities.

It makes for an episode that just feels a bit miscalculated, a sensation only furthered by Mr. Bauer’s overwrought, nonsensical dialogues (Flashdance and Indiana Jones? Really?), Sharon’s presence as set dressing – and most importantly, in how it portrays the mystical “luck” of Peter Berg. I think the sitcom wanted to make his immaturity seem appealing – but the application of his personality feels random from scene to scene. It’s clear this episode tries to portray him as too many things; obnoxious but empathetic, cunning but idiotic, incredibly loyal but also wickedly self-centered. There’s no balance with his character -and with nobody, from Pete to Bill to the poor Celtics executive they later return the flag to, able to really affect and challenge him as a character, makes him a bit of an annoyance.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game

It’s a problem the series would fix as it continued, mostly by dropping the hijinks and focusing on stories about careers, family and romance: one can see why, in how oddly-fitting and imbalanced each scene of “Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game” feels. And even those stories would take some adjustments; four episodes in, and I don’t think anyone could be convinced Melissa’s character really fits in the story, either in construction or delivery. Jennifer Westfeldt certainly builds an interesting, soft character with Melissa, but it’s the most unconvincing element of the show’s central core; even in scenes prominently featuring her and Pete, she still feels left on the fringes, nothing more than a kind face to satiate Pete when he’s being a cranky baby.

Characters like Melissa and plots like the one in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game” are clearly a crutch for the young series; they are safe in their superficiality, which makes their presence and execution all the more forgettable. But like their characters would continue to do over the next few seasons, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place is never a series content with its status quo; and that willingness to try out stories for an extended period of time, or move characters into new, challenging situations, is where the series would derive a lot of its charm. Though it’s often not present in this mediocre episode, one can already feel the sitcom starting to reflect and tinker – which is exciting, even at the journey’s awkward, inconsistent beginning.

Grade: C

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Just for fun, I did the research: the only game they could’ve possibly been at was the 1997-98 season opener on Halloween 1997, the only time the Celtics beat the Bulls (in four meetings that season). However, the Celtics won by 7, so there was no buzzer beater.
  • “You had a bad feeling about shopping cart polo!”
  • Bill is being incredibly dickish to Pete over Berg getting the lucky ticket; he goes hard on the kid, but the show never explains why he’s so being so passionately awful to him.
  • Pete, to Berg as they consider their felonious behavior: “I don’t think you realize how cute we look to larger men.”
  • Apparently Melissa is a car farter, a hilarious bit of character flavor this series would never reference again.
  • “I’m Nuts. This is my partner… Pretzels.”
  • Berg and Larry Bird bonded over the individual Camp Pomahacks each went to; over the closing credits, Berg argues with him over the phone about whose camp (the one Berg went to in Albany, or Larry’s in Indiana) was better.
  • Mr. Bauer’s Flashdance story is a true “What the fuck are we doing here with this guy?” moment for the show. I feel like David Ogden Stiers has the right energy for this series (notice the sly smile he gives Berg while telling his story), but boy is it a bad role, and an absolutely useless character.
  • Up next: Berg goes back to experimentation, and Pete sweats out his anniversary with Melissa in “Two Guys, a Girl and an Apartment”.

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