EPISODE TWO: NEAL REDDY FROM ATLANTA
After relaunching with an incredibly moving season premiere, the pressing question is: can the follow-up maintain such high levels? In short, the answer is ‘no’. But that’s not to say that the Fab Five’s adventure in Atlanta with human hairball Neal – the worst ever rebuttal to tech entrepreneur stereotypes – is a failure; it just doesn’t live up to the emotional heights of sweet ol’ Tom Jackson.
Neal doesn’t seem to like many things, but high on his dislike list are eye contact, touching and cleaning, which would explain why he’s single and hasn’t had anyone around to his apartment in ten years. In fact, it’s questionable whether or not it’s even his apartment, seeing as most of it has been annexed by the rogue nation of Doghairistan. The ruler of Doghairistan is Neal’s dog Forever, which feels like the kind of name someone with serious anxiety and abandonment issues would give their dog; “See, your name is Forever, so you have to stay with me forever. Because it’s your name. Ok?”
I actually quite liked Neal from the start. His default setting is droll sarcasm and all that hair makes him look like Kim Thayil from Superunknown-era Soundgarden (coincidentally, 16-year-old Mark’s favourite album and still a bona fide classic). If I was to rank which members of the team he needed in order of urgency, I’d have gone Karamo, Bobby, Tan, Jonathan, Antoni – although the grilled cheese sandwiches Antoni makes look like my idea of heaven. Neal definitely needed a confidence boost and to sort his flat out, but the other elements seemed less urgent. This is the first instance of Jonathan overdoing the makeover – also see the hipster mayor in season two – changing things just to change them. Neal would have been fine with a trim and a more groomed beard, but the final look works, so let’s not complain too much.
I think the reason this episode suffers in comparison to its predecessor is that the stakes just don’t seem as high. Tom was truly stuck and left pining for his ex-wife without any idea how to go about winning her back. His journey with the Fab Five reinvigorated him in a substantial way. I’m not saying that Neal’s reclusive tendencies aren’t a big deal for him, it’s more that helping a tech entrepreneur smarten himself up and network better doesn’t make for as compelling television as helping a sweet old man find love. Still, Neal looks good and a look at his Instagram account suggests they’ve set him on the road to finding his own style and a new sense of self-esteem.
Jonathan highlight: “Neal’s bathroom reminds me a lot of a skin tag. It’s not hurting anything, but it doesn’t look great.”
Antoni smell test: Weirdly, Antoni doesn’t smell anything weird in this episode. So disappointing.
Fab fives out of five: Three. Still entertaining but a lot less tears.
Epilogue: Neal now gets monthly haircuts and does stand-up.