Second Look: Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 3 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy”

Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy

Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 3 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy”
Written by Mark Ganzel
Directed by John Fortenberry
Aired March 25, 1998 on ABC

Though I deeply appreciate the central conceit of “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy” – what happens to Pete and Berg without Sharon? – it being the third episode of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place feels like a bit of a miscalculation. After all, “The Pilot” and “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation” only feature Sharon as an ancillary character, the adult in the room alongside the juvenile rendition of The Odd Couple that is Pete and Berg in the show’s first hour. And she’s not really the focal point of “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy”, either, despite the story being about how important she is to maintaining the balance in this fictional universe; ultimately, this is just another Pete and Berg-focused narrative – and not a particularly memorable one, if we’re being honest.

The problem comes from how the episode manifests drama; when Pete and Berg discover their beloved Sharon is suddenly unavailable to spend 24 hours a day with them, they realize they’ve been usurped by Ted, a man I can only describe as a complete psychopath (I mean, his pizza order is eggplant, mushrooms, and green peppers… that shit ain’t normal!). Pete and Berg don’t know this, of course, and only notice how their lives are suddenly changing; mostly, Sharon isn’t providing them with free stamps and letting them watch The X Files on her big screen TV.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy

Now, obviously Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place is dealing with immature protagonists; the first two episodes are all about Berg’s emotional immaturity and Pete’s post-college anxiety. Even with those lowered standards, though, what “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy” does to undercut Pete and Berg for the sake of humor is a bit disappointing. I mean, this is an episode where not only do Pete and Berg go out of their way to try and sabotage their supposed best friend’s new relationship, but also one where Pete complains about spending time with his girlfriend (she’s too nice at Celtics games) and Berg gets excited when his talking shoes (another mindless, annoying subplot about testing products) praise him. This episode does them no favors as a duo; and spends so much time on them, there’s no time left to give Sharon a voice, in an episode ostensibly about her presumed presence in their lives.

Instead, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy” adopts a tell, don’t show approach: there’s really not a big dramatic arc to the episode, just Pete and Berg fumbling to separate Sharon and Ted until they finally realize it’s a dead-end approach. But their moment of enlightenment comes so late in the episode, there’s really no time left to do anything but write Ted off with a bit of ironic humor. In a more thoughtful script, Sharon realizing she’s not ready to commit to the life Ted’s ready for is an interesting dynamic; he’s clearly older and more mature than her friends, and as a romantic interest, presents an archetype of Sharon’s adult life for her to reflect upon.

That’s all left offscreen; ultimately, she breaks up with Ted because Pete and Berg went so overboard getting on board with their relationship, she got cold feet and bailed as soon as Ted started taking her seriously. Again, it’s a solid little bit of storytelling, returning some of Sharon’s agency to her own life (and reminding us she is willingly best friends with Pete and Berg); but it happens in the last minute of the episode, so late it absolves the episode of having to contend with anything posited about its main characters in the preceding 21 minutes.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy

“Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy” doesn’t take this whole plot very seriously, of course, which is precisely why it is dropped like a hot potato mere seconds before the credits start to roll; it’s just not a story Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place is invested in at the moment (though its reliance on romantic comedy plots would exponentially increase in later seasons). I appreciate the show allowing Sharon to contemplate her future, a mirror of Pete’s own visions in “The Pilot”; but here, it’s really just about whether Sharon is ready to be a wife and mom, which is a thoroughly reductive way to think about the dynamic personality Sharon would develop over episodes, and seasons.

While I like where “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy” ultimately resolves itself, it is an episode that works better the second time through the series. As the show’s third episode, however, it feels like a bit too large a leap of faith, assuming a particular emotional investment in the central relationship, without doing the narrative and character legwork to make it a reality. It’s also a story the show would do well in different forms later on; as a bit of an experiment, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy” is interesting, but ultimately, its pedestrian delivery and undercooked emotional palette sell it quite a bit short.

Grade: C-

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Berg decides to name his talking shoes Turner and Hooch, because… reasons?
  • “I’ll give you the name of her connection… the post office!”
  • When Pete and Berg are at the bar, they are nursing about a quarter an ounce of beer in each of their glasses.
  • Ted is a lawyer and Big Brother who is responsible about alcohol… this is the platonic ideal of the young male adult in 1998, apparently.
  • I do like the little touch of the guys doing all their grocery shopping after they decide they need to show Sharon how mature they are. In an episode full of unflattering moments depicting their symbiotic relationship, this one is particularly subtle and pleasant.
  • Dr. Bauer does an extended bit about Invasion of the Body Snatchers… it was this episode when I realized that yes, David Ogden Stiers in fact deserved better.
  • Up next: Pete and Berg cause a media frenzy in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Celtic Game”.

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