Fam is a moderately interesting show that shows in “Freddy Returns” how much better it might be if it was all about Gary Cole’s character, who continues to stand out as being much, much funnier than everyone else.
This recap of Fam Episode 2, “Freddy Returns”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Fam is an interesting show, in no small part because it’s so wildly uneven that it feels like several shows stapled together. On the one hand you have Clem (Nina Dobrev) and Nick (Tone Bell), the lovey-dovey young couple at the show’s heart who have invited Clem’s teenage half-sister Shannon (Odessa Adlon) to live with them.
On the other hand you have Clem and Shannon’s father, Freddy (Gary Cole), who is so much funnier than everyone else around him that it’s almost as if he has been brought to life by a different writing team entirely.
In “Freddy Returns”, Clem and Nick – especially Nick – are struggling to adjust to Shannon being a slob, leaving plates and cartons around the apartment and washing her shoes in the dishwasher. But it’s a better proposition than Shannon continuing to live with Freddy, who hasn’t even noticed she’s moved out.
At a dinner with Nick’s buttoned-up parents – the Tupperware-obsessed Rose (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and the well-meaning sucker Walt (Brian Stokes Mitchell) – the subject of Freddy not being invited to Nick and Clem’s wedding comes up, and with Nick’s folks being so excitable about the importance of family and repairing relationships, the decision is made to invite him round for dinner in order to build bridges.
Neither Clem nor Shannon expect him to come – but he does, with a bottle of wine he swiped the evidence locker at work and an uncharacteristically charming persona, the authenticity of which the girls ponder. (A nice touch in “Freddy Returns” is that Shannon totally falls for it, which reminds us of the fact she’s a lot younger and more vulnerable than Clem, despite how she acts most of the time.)
Freddy has a plan, obviously – he cons Walt out of two large so he can clear a debt to his bookie, which he’s able to do when the nag Clem selected – he used to make her pick his horses as a child and sell her things when they lost – wins big. It’s obviously a despicable move, but it also creates the first positive moment Clem has shared with Freddy in a long time.
While it sometimes seems like Fam has something to say, it just as often feels like it’s totally aimless, and whenever Gary Cole isn’t stealing every scene he’s in there’s so little that’s funny or interesting here that it’s hard to ignore. Shannon is compelling but has a shtick she hasn’t deviated from yet, and Nick’s parents are simply archetypes present to set up predictable jokes that rarely land. So, as I said, an interesting show – but in a lot of ways interesting because of how much better it could be with a few tweaks.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.