In “…And With You,” Ryan faces more difficulties in raising a teenager and keeping his family together. When Lacey brings home a date, Ryan and Molly scramble to hide the truth about their family, and Lacey pushes back against her family’s customs.
In episode 7, “…And With You,” Anytown, USA brings in clashing cultures and awkward situations. Lacey brings her boyfriend Brad to dinner… and he’s certainly not what Ryan and Molly expected. The Fletchers face two horrible truths — that they will always struggle to keep their family’s secret, and that raising a teenage daughter is no easy feat.
After School Special
“…And With You” mixes the usual Anytown satire with a strange almost after-school-special type of tone. On the one hand, there’s a lot of gag humor. Ryan and Molly struggle with a dead body, trying to “hide the corpse,” as Lacey puts it, all evening. Brad is surprisingly unobservant and doesn’t notice when he’s shaking hands with the corpse (twice) instead of Lacey’s parents. Nor does he notice that the sixth person at the dinner table is obviously (and graphically) dead.
Jake, the other Fletcher child, also plays into the gag humor feel. He makes lame jokes and seems to fulfill the “annoying child” sitcom trope. There’s a terrible canned laugh track, and the notable Seinfeld theme plays at several points as if to underscore that Anytown is playing with outdated comedy standards.
Then, on the other hand, is the strange, almost reflective tone taken in regards to Lacey. In “The Selfie,” Lacey was your (stereo-) typical millennial teenager. She takes a selfie with her murder victim, plays up the sympathy card for the FBI, and laughs at her dad for being out of touch.
In “…And With You,” though, Lacey seems like a completely different character. Here, she seems to be actively pushing back against her family’s cannibalism. She blames Ryan for her isolation, and seems to believe that the Fletchers ought to change their ways. A big component of this seems to be Brad’s overwhelming Christianity, which plays for laughs and drama in this episode.
Christ Be With You
Brad’s Christianity is a disjarring plot point. He tells both Ryan and Molly “Christ be with you” upon meeting them, which makes both Fletcher parents feel uncomfortable. At one point, he interrogatively pushes Ryan about his faith, asking Ryan point-blank if he is “a man of God.” Ryan has no way to answer this question that won’t make everything more uncomfortable. What results is a long, drawn-out “…ummmmmmm.”
At dinner, Brad pointedly asks if they are going to say Grace before eating. Ryan handles this question more adroitly, giving a clear and well-thought-out answer. He explains that the Fletchers are not particularly religious, but that Brad is free to do and believe as he sees fit. Coming from a cannibal, this is a nicely accepting and tolerant answer.
Unfortunately, Ryan’s tolerance does not seem to be reciprocated. Lacey picks up on Brad’s habits, folding her hands to say Grace with him, even though she had been about to dig in. She leaves the house to go to Brad’s late-night Bible study. This almost feels like an excuse to go out late at night, but Lacey digs in and questions her father. She claims that Brad and his family — his church — are welcoming and normal. Lacey pushes Ryan past his comfort point and leaves things rather unsettled.
The episode ends on a questioning note. The family dynamic seems to be coming apart. After the previous few episodes have focused on Ryan’s disillusion with his life, “…And With You” seems to be reasserting that all is not well in the Fletcher household.
Weekend at Fletchers’
The episode has some strong points. There are minor moments that underscore the comedy of this family. When Ryan goes to the house to speak with Lacey and Brad, he leaves his current corpse in the garage. Molly, upon finding this, grumbles about Ryan always leaving stuff out. There’s a typical “annoying husband” flavor to the interaction.
The corpse is a high point of the story. He plays a Weekend at Bernie’s role, seeming to be alive although we know he’s dead. Molly and Ryan try desperately to hide the corpse, but he keeps popping up. When Brad finds the corpse in the kitchen, they play it off as Lacey’s uncle. He sits at the dinner table in sunglasses and a hat. It’s improbable, but funny, to think that Brad is so oblivious that he doesn’t realize Lacey’s “uncle” is dead.
Ryan’s discomfort with Brad’s Christianity is also amusing. Who among us hasn’t had an uncomfortable conversation about religion? No matter your belief system, at some point you just don’t know how to discuss it with someone. Ryan’s long non-answer to Brad’s “man of God” question is exactly how I feel when people push me about my religion. How can I not answer this without actually not answering?
Also, Lacey’s dress is fetch. Where can I buy that?
Canned Laugh Track
But, in my opinion, this episode was more miss than hit. There were a lot of things that just missed their mark. Jake was just, to put it bluntly, annoying. The first time he popped up behind the corpse, seemingly out of nowhere, was funny. The second time was just not funny. His awkward grin, to the sound of a terrible canned laugh track, just grated on me.
Also uncomfortable was the interactions between Ryan and Lacey at the end. Lacey pulls some lame lines during her argument with her dad. “What are you afraid of — Brad controlling me or you not being able to any more” was just… bad. There’s such an uncomfortable tint to the conversation like Anytown was trying too hard to be deep. When Ryan tells Lacey that she needs to be herself, she replies “that’s what I’m doing,” in the most self-righteous tone I’ve heard in ages.
In the past few episodes, Anytown seems to be turning away from pure parody to more focused on interpersonal issues. Ryan’s dissatisfaction with his life and now his inability to relate to his daughter make the show more serious. At the same time, “…And With You” tries hard to be funny. There’s such a conflict between these two tones that the show just feels off-balance.
At this point, Anytown has ceased to be a simple, one-off parody show. Now, there’s an overarching story. It remains to be seen how the story will conclude, but I hope that Anytown does a good job wrapping up the conflicts to focus on the humor.
If you’re watching “…And With You” as a standalone, you’re likely dissatisfied. But if you’re in it for the long haul, I think this episode will prove vital to understanding the point of Anytown.