“I just made the first of what are going to be many female hires.” Ground Floor deals with its casting mistakes in a snappy, no-excuses manner this episode – with a little bit of help from guest star Anna Camp.
Since premiering, Ground Floor has allayed most of my fears. The shock of the laugh track wore off, Threepeat and Harvard have become more and more loveable each episode, and the two floors of sets have become well-utilized work-spaces (unlike some workplace comedies which can take their slow, sweet time in figuring out how to share the screen-time between different groups). But one of the less obvious problems, something that appeared on a more subconscious, disappointing level, was the lack of women featured up on the top floor, working around Brody and under Mansfield.
Look, I get it. It’s realistic, perhaps, that there are more men working in the top office in the finance sector than women – something Bill Lawrence saw when he went and researched for the show. But here’s the thing: television is this really powerful medium. It’s this communicator that sits in your home, right in front of your family and friends, and it subliminally – and sometimes consciously – influences you. Whatever is on that box, in your house, and therefore, in your life and apart of your routine, becomes the norm. And that’s why the presence of women on the top floor, in powerful positions, is such an important thing for Ground Floor to show. Yes, Jenny’s a brilliant, strong character that Briga Heelan plays wonderfully, but I want to see different types of strong and powerful women on my television, and in this week’s episode, I was really, really impressed with how the writers handled the issue. The issue being, of course, that besides Jenny… The women in Ground Floor? They’re sort of non-existent.
Alexis Knapp’s Tory is there, of course, but she and Derek (the only black character on the show, coincidentally) are yet to be fleshed out further. So besides Jenny and the occasionally-featured Tory? There aren’t a lot more female characters hanging around. In fact, Ground Floor can feel a little like a father-son show sometimes, the story of a man growing up while his dad watches on from the office upstairs, guiding him throughout the episode in the direction that he needs to go. Something that seems a bit of a shame when you have someone running the show like Bill Lawrence, a man who’s just so good at writing realistic and three-dimensional female characters. But tonight the show – and the production team, in a little bit of real-life meta – made some changes that look set to right this wrong. And to be honest, I never didn’t have faith that they wouldn’t. I had heard that Anna Camp was guest starring for this very reason, and so I hadn’t bothered to comment on the issue until now, when it looked set to be addressed. But now it’s out – so remarkably early in the show’s run, pleasantly enough – and Brody’s workplace looks set to get a lot more gender-balanced. (Potentially with the presence of more female extras, and – I suppose the question is – another female costar?)
But yes, this week’s Ground Floor kept itself moving, and a lot of that forward momentum came from Anna Camp (Astin’s real life girlfriend, and Pitch Perfect co-star), in her guest-role as Brody’s ex-girlfriend. Jenny isn’t exactly excited to meet Heather, but she doesn’t want to be “that girl,” and so she makes an effort with Heather, inviting her to lunch, and then to karaoke with the downstairs crew. Something that spurs on her jealousy when she sees the spark – and history – that Heather and Brody have together (via, of course, a wonderfully horrible rendition of ‘…Baby One More Time.’) The singing leads to a crisis of faith for Jenny, who explodes at Brody in a scene that really, truly showed me just how great Heelan can be. That scene, full of vulnerable doubt from the girl that has been anything but vulnerable so far in this series, was just so wonderful. And paired with Anna Camp’s role, the two dynamics and plot lines made for a really great episode.
It’s just a pity that Brody and Jenny’s reunion was such a schmaltzy ending. Something that I can forgive, however, when seeing Harvard’s reaction. (He’s been banned from Karakoke due to how terrible he is, and how much he likes to change the words, switching from singing to comedy routine performance, much to my delight.)
Brody and Jenny make up and sing, and the episode ends with the same again, a full-cast song. Minus, of course, Mansfield and Harvard, the latter of whom can be seen pounding hard liquor in the background. I love a good song, but the musical numbers in this week’s Ground Floor just weren’t as good as the plot this week, Anna Camp owning the top floor offices – Threepeat included – and showing Mansfield that just because she’s a woman, doesn’t mean that he has to be any less of a hardass boss around her. And Briga Heelan stole the rest of the scenes, downstairs, with hilarious and then earnest vulnerability. There is more than one kind of strong, more than one kind of woman, and Ground Floor, I feel, after this week’s episode, is well-equipped to show us this, now.
- Harvard’s version of Don McLean’s “American Pie”: “People wanna know what happened to the chevy after he drove it to the levy, Derek. Bye, bye Miss American jobs, because they’re going to China.”
- Father-figure Mansfield talking about Heather and Brody: “On paper, you’re an ideal match. But god knows you don’t fall in love on paper, do you son.”
- Anna Camp stealing the show, and calling out Mansfield for not treating her like one of the boys: “You’re treating me like some kind of Princess, and it’s bullshit!” Amen, sister. I hope to see you again soon, Anna.