'Trophy Wife': A eulogy for a show gone too soon
I wrote the first version of this post — a reaction to Trophy Wife‘s first season finale — last week, when there was still a small, shimmering chance that the show might live to see another season. Alas, in the time between then and now, ABC decided to ax one of the year’s best new sitcoms — meaning that my assessment of season 1 and collection of hopes for season 2 must be retrofitted into a eulogy.
It goes without saying that this is a damn shame. I spent all year recommending this series to anyone who’d listen, especially ex-Modern Family fans who had grown disillusioned with ABC’s flagship sitcom. Trophy Wife has — had — all of ModFam‘s heart and humor with none of its laziness or weird, mean edge (seriously, do Cam and Mitchell even like each other?), and it remains criminal that the network never saw fit to program the newer show at 9:30 on Wednesdays.
But at this point, there’s no use in complaining about Trophy Wife‘s crappy time slot, or its crappy, misleading title (which may shoulder much of the blame for why it never caught on; call it the Cougar Town effect). Instead, let’s spend this time praising the great things about Trophy even as we bury it — namely:
The Pete’s Wives Club
Broadly speaking, the trio of ladies at Trophy Wife‘s center is what really made this show great. Trophy tells the story of three women who have all been married to the same man — and while their relationships with each other and with him are complicated, no member of the trio is ever made out to be a villain (as Marcia Gay Harden’s Diane would be on a lesser sitcom) or a walking punchline (which easily could have been the fate of Michaela Watkins’ Jackie or Malin Akerman’s Kate). All three have dimensions, even when Trophy wrings comedy by exaggerating their most prominent characteristics (Diane’s rigidity, Jackie’s flakiness, Kate’s immaturity) — which is really something, considering how hard some shows struggle to present even one nuanced female character. And Bradley Whitford’s Pete is no slouch himself; in the hands of less capable writers or a less skilled actor, he’d be nothing more than another henpecked husband. On Trophy, though, Pete never slid into stereotype — and just as importantly, it was always easy to see why all three of these capable, beautiful women would have married him in the first place.
Another thing that set Trophy Wife apart from legions of inferior family shows: Its youngest actors are naturally funny, refreshingly understated, and wonderfully weird, especially Albert Tsai’s adorably boisterous Bert. I mean, come on: The kid’s an American treasure. I’m officially starting the campaign for Bert and Warren to star in #TrueDetectiveSeason2.
Gahh, what a good joke! This one hurts, guys.
Kate and Pete’s airplane wedding
It’s the emotional high point of Trophy‘s only season — tonight’s finale included. Series co-creators Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern tell TVLine that they envisioned the episode as a season finale rather than a series finale, which explains why it doesn’t feel all that conclusive. So instead, let’s end on this image of Kate and Pete, smiling and surrounded by their loved ones, as Miss Piggy and Kermit sweetly pledge their everlasting love. Somebody get me a tissue — and a Trophy Wife boxed set, once it’s available.