While the second episode of TBS' single-camera format comedy 'Wedding Band' was quite a departure from the pilot, the change of setting and addition of guest characters shows the value of the concept behind the sitcom: as a band for hire, our four buddies can wind up anywhere, any week.
The cold-open for the second episode features the band playing at a wedding being held at a Seattle Space Needle comics and science fiction convention. The marriage is themed, but there is a clear division in the room... the bride and her side are dressed to resemble Vulcans from a series akin to 'Star Trek' while the husband's side look like they hail from Tolkein's Middle Earth. Our band manages to bridge the gap between these fandoms and the party begins in earnest.
As I noted about the pilot episode last week, it is very smart on behalf of the 'Wedding Band' showrunners to avoid turning these guest appearances into an excuse to mock a subculture. Just like it was made perfectly clear in the pilot that our heroes' sole mission is to ensure everyone attending one of their gigs has a good time, they also refuse to mock others for their appearance or lifestyle. This flies in the face of popular American comedy today: watch any episode of 'How I Met Your Mother'--any character that is not one of the main five is introduced for the sole purpose of the main cast mocking them incessantly. The characters in 'Wedding Band' are not the despicable horrorshow that the cast of 'HIMYM' is, and the show is stronger as a result--these are characters we can root for.
The showrunners wasted no time capitalizing on series lead Brian Austin Green's marriage to actress Megan Fox ('Transformers,' 'Jonah Hex'), as Fox guests in episode two ("I Love College") as a sci-fi goddess, beloved by geeks the world over. While Green's character Tommy has no idea who she is (a novelty sufficient for the buxom space-princess to offer him her phone number), bandmate Barry (Derek Miller) is a huge fan.
I mentioned in my review of the pilot that Barry's character would need to be developed beyond a caricature of Jack Black; "I Love College" went a long way towards accomplishing that goal. Barry is a big kid. He doesn't talk crudely or revel in the sexual... he's just having a great time with his friends, doing what he loves. The small touches, like Barry's zeal to duct tape a wire to his buddy Eddie's chest so that he may assist Eddie in a fight with his wife, have turned a flat character into a humorous one. That was my major complaint about 'Wedding Band' coming out of the first episode, and it has already been handily addressed.
Now: it must be noted that "I Love College" is fairly juvenile. The plot centers around two less-than=popular high school students who hire Tommy and the gang to play music for a party they're throwing in effort to impress a couple popular girls. What follows is a plot straight out of 'Can't Hardly Wait' or any number of teen party films. The episodic notion of this comedy, with new characters who come and go with a new setting each week, is a callback to the early 1990s. 'Wedding Band' is managing to harness the casual dialogue of a hit comedy like 'Arrested Development' while going back in time to a period when a viewer could miss an episode of a television show and not be entirely lost next week (damn you, DVD age!).
Still: the bottom line about 'Wedding Band' 1x02 is that it is inventive and it is funny. The guest actors Megan Fox, Chad Addison, Timmy Deters and Drake Kemper steal the show, proving that the rotating setting can be a boon for the series rather than a drawback. The relationships between the band and their new employers (played by Melora Hardin and Jenny Wade) was further developed, and it left me wanting to see episode 1x03. What more can you ask for?
FINAL GRADE: A