Second Look: Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 2 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation”

Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation

Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 2 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation”
Written by Vince Calandra
Directed by Mark Cendrowski
Aired March 18, 1998 on ABC

After an enjoyable, overstuffed pilot episode, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place‘s second episode smartly only has one priority; developing the rapport between Pete and Berg, finding more specific, complex places to explore beyond Berg’s intelligence (and Pete’s occasional lack thereof). As Berg turns his attention to med school and Pete prepares for a big architectural presentation, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place begins to explore the dichotomies between its male protagonists, and how their two worlds differ outside the walls of their Boston apartment – and although “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation” is a thoroughly unremarkable episode, is an encouraging sign for the young comedy.

Their conflict is well-worn material; Berg the laid-back, intelligent goofball, the kind who developed a sense of humor and penchant for being the center of attention – and Pete, the neurotic underachiever whose efforts seem predestined for misery and suffering. While Pete sweats over his architectural project (which looks like crap, if we’re all being honest), Berg is showing off his new beeper and practicing his “doctor walk” by watching General Hospital after calling out of work – which frustrates Pete to no end, Berg’s shenanigans only a reminder of Pete constantly feeling like he’s always fighting to swim against the current.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation

Unfortunately, where the story takes this conflict is supremely disappointing; at first, nobody seems to remember Pete’s presentation is even happening, which would naturally feed into his paranoia at absolutely blowing his best chance to get a job after grad school. Instead, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation” lazily leans on its worst element to inject tension into its story, when Berg realizes Pete’s ingested an extremely large amount of the allergesic he’s been testing, and rushes to intervene on the presentation he’s going to blow.

It cannot be understated how cheap it makes the episode’s resolution; it would take a couple episodes for the series to realize this (maybe after reading this scathing, completely ludicrous Entertainment Weekly review that spends its time comparing it to shows it wasn’t trying to be?), but Berg’s medical experiments are nothing but a cheap plot device, an unnecessary addition that is always used in substitution of more logical story construction. In the first episode, it was Berg on truth serum (which gave me flashbacks of the Mr. and Mrs. Smith finale, for obvious reasons) – in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation”, it is a flavorless substitute for the potential laid out in the episode’s first act.

What the series is trying to establish is Pete and Berg’s unconventional comradery, a symbiotic relationship pushing them into uncomfortable, necessary places in life. Though Berg often acts a foil for Pete’s best laid plans, his presence in Pete’s life pushes him to never accept the status quo – and in return, Pete serves as a grounded reminder for Berg to take some things in life a bit seriously, if only because it doesn’t come as naturally to everyone else as it does to him.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation

That relationship is hinted towards in the episode’s climactic scene, where a panicking Berg realizes that he in fact overdosed on the medicine, and Pete was just being his sweaty, awkward self while doing his presentation. However, it’s not brought about because of some interesting wrinkle in their dynamic – it’s because of the medication, which Berg realizes he’s been taking all along, causing the paranoid delusions that led him to ruin Pete’s chance at post-college employment.

While the reveal, where Berg has an exaggerated double take, is a good one, the mechanics used to get there feel cheap; it undersells Pete’s ability to find his voice in the scene (even though said voice was proposing a massive jack-in-the-box be built alongside the building), and fails to really capture the push and pull in their relationship, a button the series would press on many times through its four-season run. After the brevity of their final conversation in “The Pilot”, the dramatic crescendo of “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation” feels like its leading to a similar moment; that moment never comes, unfortunately, which leaves it relying solely on its punchlines to succeed.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation

Thankfully, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation” already has a strong grasp on its brand of humor, and Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place‘s second offering is able to cover up some of the blemishes in its plot with its comedic timing. It’s not perfect – Dr. Bauer’s appearance and a slight over-reliance on an inebriated Pete’s Captain Kirk impression – but Two Guys and a Girl keeps it moving with its joke construction, even with characters who often feel superfluous in these early episodes (like Bill).

Those jokes aren’t quite enough to save this episode from mediocrity; but for a sitcom’s second episode, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Presentation” isn’t half bad, displaying the most important tenets of a young comedy (being funny, having cast chemistry, and knowing its voice) even as it fumbles a bit with characterization and balance. Most importantly, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place‘s second episode doesn’t feel redundant or unnecessarily repetitive – avoiding the typical pitfalls of the dreaded post-pilot pickup script, putting the series on solid footing as it moves headstrong into the core of its freshman season.

Grade: C

Other thoughts/observations:

  • “What the hell kind of side effect is delusional? Haven’t you people ever heard of diarrhea?”
  • I love the two have a bust of Socrates in their apartment. Berg’s time as a philosophy student doesn’t produce much in this series, but that moment is a good one.
  • “Damnit Pete… I’m a doctor, not a waiter!”
  • As mentioned, Dr. Bauer’s scene is incredibly lame; there’s an idea behind a character whose stories sound vaguely parallel to film plots, but his recanting of Toy Story is not that, and sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • Pete asks Bill if he’d be proud to have an architect child. “I’ve already got a building – I need medical!”
  • There’s a subplot about Sharon’s ethics around advertising a pesticide that kills bugs faster than it actually does…. It’s a fat nothing burger, and a disappointing second appearance for her character.
  • Though we won’t meet Ashley until season two, Berg entering medical school is an incredibly important step for where the series would head, as it expanded beyond the nouns in its title.
  • “The brain is like a gas tank… when it’s full, it’s full!”
  • Up next: Sharon’s new boyfriend causes a rift in the poorly-titled “Two Guys, a Girl and a Guy”.

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