The Hard Times of RJ Berger Season One, Part One
Welcome to a new type of post: reviews of show seasons on Netflix to help you know whether the many many hours of time needed to invest in programs will be worth it. This article will cover the first 6 episodes of The Hard Times of RJ Berger, Season One, while a follow-up article will cover the last 7 of the season. It’s a new concept, so let’s dive right in:
The first season of RJ Berger suffers from one very unfortunate flaw: the first episode is so blindingly good, so above the par, such a found treasure that everything following can’t live up with it’s raw originality. Nothing following in the series can be that good. But that’s not to suggest the season is a waste of time. On the contrary, the following five episodes of RJ Berger should be looked at as being 100% great while the pilot was firing at 125%. Knowing that, let’s dive into some bite-size episode reviews.
Episode One: Pilot
If you’d like a more comprehensive review of the pilot, follow this link to the full episode one review. Now that that’s been supplied, let’s get on with it. The first episode is essentially perfect. Any flaws it might have get wiped away by the caliber of it’s best moments, especially that freaking amazing ending. The plot of the first episode boils down to RJ getting matched with his lady love Jenny Swanson as study partners right before the whole school learns about is “curse” (he’s got a giant dick), all the while dealing with his very sexually inappropriate parents (the neighbors and them talk about an orgy they’ll be enjoying together right in front of RJ at the dinner table). So far, it is the best episode of the season.
Epidose Two: Yes We Can’t
In the followup episode Max Owens (Jayson Blair)–the infamous boyfriend of Jenny Swanson–as the President of the Student Government Association keeps approving the funneling of “emergency funds” into the athletic club (including an over $1,400 request that essentially paid for the Coach’s gambling debt) while refusing money to groups like RJ’s Computer Club and even his own girlfriend’s Theater Club, which only needed $500 for sets. So what is a big dick, nerdy, and unlikely hero to do against the unopposed President of SGA? Why, make him opposed, of course. And he does a damn marvelous job at it, despite his friend’s disbelief in him. It’s a valiant episode that could be described as a slightly better version of this summer’s The Campaign and one that introduces an awesomely funny Kevin Stern (Adam Cagley) as a wheelchair bound student, though based on his use of a leg to turn himself in a later episode, I don’t think he needs it. That, or more likely, the actor just didn’t do as flawless a job at portraying a crippled kid as Kevin McHale did on Glee. Either way, the episode is a blast and it has an ingenious ending that helps RJ not win (after all, he wouldn’t be the underdog if he held his arch enemy in the palm of the hand, could he?
Episode Three: The Berger Cometh
“Vamp Side Story”. If that sounds like the bad title to a worse melding of West Side Story and Vampires, then you’ve landed on the main MacGuffin of the third episode in RJ’s televised life. Because, of course, the leading lady is lovely Jenny. And if RJ doesn’t join the play, he’ll be without his precious Jenny time for weeks! As you can expect he gives an awful first reading for the main Vampire’s love-struck monologue. But then Jenny comes in and he nails it. One complaint I have about that moment is that instead of becoming captivated by Jenny and looking at her the whole time he says the monologue (like every movie with the same scene always does), he catches a glimpse of her and then looks blankly into the distance as he says the speech. But getting past that small moment, the episode has a lot of fun messing with RJ as he approaches the inevitable moment, which is the kiss their love crossed lovers share at the show’s conclusion (repeatedly referred to as “the climax” by the lady director).
Episode Four: Here’s to You, Mrs. Robbins
The digitally remaster re-release of Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark in theaters. Getting invited to Jenny Swanson’s sweet sixteen. What more can a nerdy high school kid ask for? Well, $300 apparently. That’s how much RJ thinks he needs to get something special for Jenny’s birthday party (read: something with gold). After an unsuccessful attempt to get the money from his mother in the laundry room that ends with her not so subtly riding the washing machine, he finds a solution in doing chores for his neighbors. Yes, the same ones with the dinner table orgy talk. Unfortunately for our boy RJ this causes ripples every day. The first day he does chores for Mrs. Robbins he’s so exhausted he doesn’t wake up in time to join his best friend Miles for their night of Indiana Jones glory, causing Miles to dump him as a best friend. He even returns his half of a pair of necklaces that when put together spells “Bros.” The second day he spends the day at the local Tennis Club to act as Mrs. Robbins’s (very underage) designated driver, and gets embarrassed when Mrs. Robbins tells Jenny (who is also a member) how jealous she is of her young, perky breasts. Then the coup de gras occurs: having just dove for every piece of Mrs. Robbins’s cookware that mysteriously ended up on the bottom of her pool, Mrs. Robbins sexually ambushes him until Mr. Robbins catches his wife almost getting her way with our underage hero… and wants to join in. Besides some weaknesses in the episode as well as the humorous continuity errors a drawing of RJ’s go through (crumpled into a ball then neatly folded in four then barely with any creases), this is actually one of the highlights of the season.
Episode Five: The Rebound
Jenny dumps Max for cheating. And in typical fashion, it is splendidly public. Does anyone need to say “now’s your chance RJ, old buddy, old chum”? The episode follows two separate threads. First, it deals with all the beavers coming out of the woodwork wanting to chew on Jenny’s bark. Second, RJ is unfortunately roped into the task of proving Max’s innocence. Max’s defense? The panties Jenny found in his locker were mediums and “he doesn’t do fat chicks.” After some digging, he actually discovers that what Max says is true. To make matters worse, RJ gets stuck with a moral kerfuffle of whether to tell his longtime crush when Jenny asks to spend Friday night with him (the coveted night of coitus that all those busy little beavers are shooting for). She even goes as far to tell him that she needs an honest, nice guy like RJ. On his bed. After telling him she doesn’t want to study. It’s kind of unfortunate that this show seems so predictable upon review because The Hard Times of RJ Berger handles these moments with much more grace than any cheap copycat of The Wonder Years ever could. At the end of the episode you’ll definitely have a warm feeling in your stomach… or is it heart?
Episode Six: Over the Rainbow
To give you the proper view of this episode, let me recreate the conversation RJ has with his dad when they talk about his golden haired crush: “You gotta hump a few clunkers before you can fondle a ferrari.” “Uh, Dad. As far as my balls are concerned, the wheel hasn’t been invented yet. I wouldn’t know the first thing, what to do.” “That’s the great thing about clunkers. You can knock em up against a few walls, leave cigarette burns in the upholstery, and dump em in a ditch.” Yep, it’s that kind of episode. What a timely speech for RJ to get, too; because it just so happens a “clunker” Claire (who i’d say is still way out of his league) moved in right across the street. Let me point out: if a girl is much closer to Jenny than she is Lily (RJ’s ugly sex crazy stalker), then she’s no clunker. But be it as it may, things don’t come easily to our boy RJ. It turns his new British accented Indian girl (not the type with the feathers as everyone keeps pointing out) is very much about purity.
That’s right, abstinence baby! But things aren’t as hopeful for RJ as they seem. Because according to Miles, those are the freakiest type of girl. There’s a wonderful obscene dance to accompany his explanation of what a Rainbow Party is. (it’s a party where the girls all put on different color lipsticks and “paint” the boys, doing everything but–two T’s butt). So RJ’s sites are set on the new girl from across the pond who seems to prefer his nice group of losers to the arrogant jocks who see her sexy potential because according to Claire RJ and his friends seem “a lot cooler.” So he joins the purity club. And the craziest thing about their boring, bible reading group? The Rainbow Party thing is true. Apparently, this is what goes on with American purity groups. Not so much with the British purity groups, though, and Claire bolts. Can you guess what happens? With his pants still unzipped, RJ bolts. And suddenly he’s got a clunker gf because it’s sweet for a boy to “walk me home instead of getting his balls drained by half a dozen slags.”
All things said and done, this is definitely a good first half to the season, with promises of more goodness to come. Because at the end of every episode choice clips from the next episode act as a “next time on” segment which works very well on a platform like Netflix. Usually those kinds of trailers are completely separate from the episode’s cut. It’s definitely a smart move for MTV.
If you have Netflix or are considering the 30-Day Free Trial, this is definitely a gem to check out. It’ll have you watching all 24 episodes of it’s complete two seasons, I can promise you that. (unless it gets really lame later, I haven’t seen those episodes yet lol). Either way, this is definitely something for Netflix viewing.
And don’t forget, the easiest way to stream Netflix is through the #1 Rated Netflix Streaming Device, the Roku, with a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee, just like Netflix.
If you’re still on the fence, check out this first season trailer.
Let us know what you thought about the show by clicking “reply” at the top of the article.
Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/Netflix-Critic-Review for future reviews.
For those who like their Special Features and Audio Commentaries, here are a few helpful links to the physical copies and Amazon digital copies, which are free for Prime Members: