Detroiters Introduction + S1E5 Review

Hola Avocadians,

I’ve gotten the notion recently to start writing the TV reviews/recaps for shows that I like which aren’t being reviewed/recapped anywhere else. I watched Detroiters tonight, and I’ve been really enjoying it so far, so I decided to take up this mantle.

Originally wrote this on my blog, but I’m copying and pasting it here so that everyone who’s seen the show and wants to discuss it can have a space to. I’ll try to do this weekly.

Episode 5: “Happy Birthday, Mr. Duvet”

Quick introduction: Detroiters is the new Comedy Central series from Sam Richardson (Veep) and Tim Robinson (Saturday Night Live), where the two real-life best friends play best friends who run an ad agency (inherited from Tim’s dad after he “went insane,” as everyone keeps describing his dementia).

The show’s a lot of fun– a breezy, easy, low-stakes comedy in a slightly off-kilter world, but one that’s fun and winning and where our leads are goofy and naive but never malicious. The show follows their antics whether on the job (pitching a Chrysler executive played by Jason Sudeikis while he’s in the hospital; recording a song for a wig commercial and throwing in the tagline that “We guarantee: Our wigs aren’t made from hair off dead bodies”) or off (riding a motorcycle; accidentally becoming a prostitute).

Anyway: We’re five episodes in as of tonight, and I looked around the Internet and saw no weekly reviews of the show anywhere. In a fit of determining to be the change I wished to see, I decided to write this one. I’m going to keep it up as much as I can.

This week’s episode is a typically odd-ball and low-stakes Detroiters plot, which also expands the world and the extended cast somewhat. The entire episode takes place inside a banquet hall where Sam’s father Lawrence is throwing himself a 60th birthday party. We’ve met Sam’s sister (who is also Tim’s wife) before, but now we get to meet Sam’s mother and father, as well as a grandmother, and Molly, Sam’s ex-girlfriend. Despite (or possibly because of) Molly’s status as the nicest irresponsible and power-abusing cop ever, Sam’s parents are trying to get them back together.

The plot of the episode, such as it is, largely revolves around Sam’s nervousness about giving the keynote speech at the party. In the sort of absurd detail that gives Detroiters its sense of goofy fun, Sam’s dad is hyper-critical of speeches other people give, which raises the question of just why so many people are giving speeches at his birthday party… or it would if the viewer wasn’t already asking that question, since we never do find out what makes Lawrence Duvet such a pillar of the community as to have a lavish birthday party. (The party itself is indicative of the oddball nature of the show’s world.)

While Sam is stressing out over his speech, Tim is inadvertently butting heads with a number of party guests. Tim Robinson’s performance really makes the character; he could get annoying quickly were it not for the fact that Robinson plays Tim without an ounce of malice in his body. He’s not trying to hassle Mr. Bones (his name is Julian!) while he’s off the clock; he just really believes in the magic of clowns. He doesn’t want to upset the Pie Lady; he just knows that when you get clowns and pies in the same room, wacky hijinks will occur. He’s just trying to compliment a seven-year-old on his performance of “You Are My Sunshine,” and he inadvertently finds himself fighting with a foul-mouthed, cocky diva. (The kid’s response to Tim’s jab that Santa Claus isn’t real: “Then who gave me this huge hog?”)

Very little happens this episode; Sam’s nervousness builds as, first, he throws out all his mustache jokes when Lawrence shows up having freshly shaved his. Then, Tim takes those jokes and uses them anyway in his speech, to great success. The moment of emotional breakthrough, such as it was, comes in the men’s room, when Sam is telling Tim how he’ll speak from the heart, and Lawrence overhears them. And then Sam takes the bullet when someone discovers Lawrence’s apparently toilet-wrecking leavings. And then Tim takes the bullet for Sam. And then Sam goes through with his backup plan of singing “You Are My Sunshine,” despite the kid beating him to it.

Tim’s faith in the wonder of the universe providers the other big comic payoff of the episode: Julian / Mr. Bones gets up to speak after Sam finishes, and in the middle of his speech executes a perfect pratfall off the stage. While he has everyone else thinking he’s really hurt, he gives Tim a wink… before stumbling into the table full of pies and falling face-first into it. Probably not the best time for Tim to yell “In your face, Pie Lady!”; it gets him a punch in the gut from her husband, while Julian is taken out on a stretcher.

If you’re new to the show, as you can see, the plot is somewhere between “low stakes” and “nonexistent,” and that’s okay. More than anything, the show is about two friends and their adventures, and sometimes that just means hanging out at a birthday party all evening. This was a fine entry, although it wasn’t quite as good as the last two. Or maybe that’s just because I can’t get the “Devereux Wigs” jingle out of my head.

Stray thoughts:

  • We first hear about Lawrence’s over-criticism toward speeches from Sam, but I got a kick out of Lawrence himself confirming it… And then insisting that everyone is exaggerating.
  • One of my other favorite gags of the night was Tim and Molly greeting each other. After Tim goes through a number of cop-as-pig jokes:
    TIM: Where’s your box of donuts?
    MOLLY: Careful, or I’ll bust you for that crack in your pocket.
    …and, yes, Molly planted a vial of crack on Tim, magician-like. The delight Tim took in it was both hilarious and a little disturbing.
  • Lawrence giving his own speech while everyone else sang him “Happy Birthday” was a nicely appropriate self-important touch.
  • Another great running gag: Lawrence constantly calling for the party to do the hustle. (That said, I don’t know what song they were playing in those sequences, but it definitely wasn’t “The Hustle”:
  • Comedy Central shrank the credits to 20% of the screen or so, so I couldn’t catch who the guest stars were this episode. Sorry.
  • Apparently both Molly and Tim recognize that Sam is upset because he fiddles with his balls.