Close Enough Season 2 Review: Family Matters

In my review of Close Enough’s first season, I called it a breath of fresh air for the animated adult sitcom; a quirky and surreal experience that portrays the true importance of family, all without the nasty cynicism and grotesque art styles of other adult-centric animated series. With the likes of modern day Family Guy and Simpsons, or other adult comedies like Rick and Morty and F is for Family, it feels like there is a celebration of nihilism and cynicism in these shows; families that feel like they don’t love each other and only intend to scam and abuse their household. Thank God for J.G. Quintel and Close Enough, a mature and funny animated sitcom that contains a family that feels truly real. 

The plot of Close Enough isn’t too important, but it’s good for some context: father and aspiring game designer Josh is a bit of a dunce and has a fair bit of growing up to do, but is earnest and supportive. Emily, Josh’s wife, is stern, logical, and organized (everything her husband isn’t), but is a loving, strong, and loyal wife and mother. They both raise their 5 year-old daughter Candice while juggling their own jobs, aspirations, money (or lack thereof), and their divorced roommates, the neurotic and stubborn-in-his-ways Alex and social media connoisseur and fashion diva Bridgette. These seemingly normal sitcom characters in a seemingly normal sitcom universe must then deal with surreal forces against nature, whether those forces be haunted furniture, evil AI, or cults.

Much like Quintel’s prior show, Regular Show, the structure for each episode goes similarly to this: in an average day, a character is confronted by an opportunity or problem. By the halfway point, the situation swiftly takes a turn for the insane and strange, and they must find a roundabout solution to the problem. Being episodic in nature, some certain choices and events are mostly without consequences, as the characters will continue the next episode like nothing has happened. Which is perfectly fine by me, as each episode in Season 2 effectively stands on its own. While Season 1 has around four episodes dedicated to Josh trying to prove himself as a capable father and husband, Season 2 instead has only two episodes like that, which is certainly a vast improvement. 

The focus of side characters was really quite needed since last season, and I’m glad they gave underutilized characters stuff to do this season; landlord Pearle, handyman Randy, perfectionist music teacher Mr. Campbell, and 5 year-old daughter Candice, characters (especially the former two) who had gone mostly ignored in the first season, have their own stories and misadventures. In “Joint Break”, Pearle relives her old glory as a police officer when she has a run-in with senior citizens pulling off a series of heists; in “Meet the Frackers”, Randy meets his long-lost parents and cherishes his newfound time for them, only to find out they are frackers attempting to steal the oil in his town; meanwhile, “Sauceface”, my personal favorite episode this season, has Candice becoming a kingpin when her and her friend Maddie start a hot sauce racket at their school, obviously spoofing the likes of Scarface. It’s certainly refreshing to be away from the four main characters for a bit, who all take up so much of Season 1’s runtime. Considering we’re familiar with the main protagonists at this point, seeing side characters get their own focus moves the story potential even further moving forward.

Quintel is no stranger to inviting us into his bizarre and otherworldly mind, putting Josh and Emily and company into perilous and surreal situations. While I’d say Season 1 has “weirder” moments for sure (nothing beats Josh’s memorable venture in getting a vasectomy), Season 2 has its own share of insanity. In “Houseguest from Hell”, Emily lets an old friend move in with her, only to soon find out she is literally dating Lucifer and has a baby with him and must deliver the evil spawn in their apartment. “Time Hooch” shows Alex and Josh going back in time to save Alex’s doomed marriage with Bridgette, only to have to constantly go through dozens of fights and collect each and every “past” Alex along the way (plus the concept of Alex and Bridgette getting divorced over a sandwich). The season’s finale, “Secret Horse” acts vaguely as an anthology, with each character meeting a fat and brainless horse who they believe has magical powers, thus granting them luck and fortune, all while keeping the horse secret from one another. It’s these concepts that make the show so devilishly entertaining with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, such as Alex and Pearle being chased by an exaggerated version of Oprah Winfrey and an angry mob, or Bridgette having literal withdrawals after being rid of her cell phone for an hour. Little touches in animation and dialogue also go a long way: this is a truly hilarious show with excellent comedic timing all around.

This formula, however, despite how fun it can be, could ultimately lead to the show’s detriment in later seasons. With all episodes per season being released at once, the episodes can quickly and tiresomely bleed together, so I’d recommend you don’t binge the season like I did. If HBO Max would release each episode on a weekly basis, the show wouldn’t feel nearly as tedious or identical. But even then, there’s rarely a change in formula for each episode. Regular Show fell into this same trapping, and while it was charming to see there, the fun could run thin if J.G. Quintel keeps going at it with his untouched brand of humor. With how charming the characters and world of Close Enough can be, I’d like to have this show run for however long it has steam.

Another small criticism I have would be the runtime per episode. While some episodes fit right into a snug 15-minute runtime, certain other episodes feel a bit too ambitious to be squeezed into a 15-minute story. “Cyber Matrix”, in-particular, follows Alex becoming obsessed with a new smartphone and becoming the god of his own digital world, and frankly the pacing is a bit of a mess and would probably have worked better a full, more complete runtime of 30 minutes. That, and a couple more episodes, could work just fine as 30-minute “specials”, if you would. Which also begs the question of why the seasons are organized in two-episode segments when it could just have 16 bite-sized episodes listed?

At the time of this writing, Close Enough has just been renewed for a third season, and I’m of two minds. While I’m definitely ecstatic about seeing more of these characters and what other weird mind trips I’ll be warped into, I also have my own complaints about the show’s general structure I just went into. Quintel and the rest of his writing team clearly have talent and a very specific brand of humor, and I want to see them stick with it and even flesh it out to deliver some truly bizarre, unfathomable concepts. But I also want to feel more engaged and excited, and not just having a decent amount of fun per episode. Nevertheless, Close Enough continues to be my favorite on-going animated series; everything is right up my alley, and wherever the team decides to take things next season, I’ll be there and beyond.

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