Season 3, Episode 6 (originally aired July 22): “Lyle & Son”
Microsynopsis: Billy Gardell returns as Lyle Winkler, Steve’s childhood rival. He opens a bar across the street from Sullivan & Son, not to make a profit, but to drive Steve out of business over some middle-school slight. The new bar, Lyle & Son, is cooler and more exciting, and for a while even Steve’s regulars find it difficult to stay away. Steve and Lyle agree to a loser-leaves-town bartenders’ challenge. Meanwhile, Carol’s hanging out with her new boss (played by Frank Caliendo) who drives her crazy with annoying impressions. She likes her new position but is afraid to express her displeasure for fear of losing her job.
Good: Okay, this is going to sound very subjective, but friends and I have been joking about the Korean mafia in Honolulu for ages, so Ok Cha, who admits to having ties to Pittsburgh’s Korean mafia, is pretty funny when she recommends “sending a message” to Lyle as a means to scaring him away. Steve has a few moments where he gets to be cheered on by his customers, a nice establishment of community in a much less-forced way than is this program’s wont.
Bad: There’s no Susan in this episode. And if there’s one thing that’s worse in a thirty-minute sitcom than a gratuitous guest star, it’s two gratuitous guest stars. I love Frank Caliendo, but I was in pain for him in this episode. There’s also some gratuitous bouncing, as Lyle’s bikini-clad waitresses cheer him on, but for some reason that doesn’t offend my sensibilities quite as much.
Hapa moment: This may be more about personalities than ethnicities, but Steve’s dad’s advice is (at first) not to worry about competition because as long as the best regulars keep coming back, so will the rest. His mom’s advice is to call in “the Association” to threaten and intimidate Lyle.
Overall: It surprises me to say it, but as stupid as some of the plot and direction are (at one point, Lyle actually rubs his hands together in anticipation of winning a trophy; who does that outside of TV and the movies?), there’s an overall fun vibe with this episode and I rather enjoyed it.
Final grade, this episode: B minus.