Detroiters S1E9, “Husky Boys”

I haven’t recapped the last two episodes because I got to them so late that I didn’t think there was much value in a recap, but even though I’m two nights behind here, I wanted to write about this one because I think it’s maybe the funniest episode of the season, and for whatever reason, nobody else is writing about this show.

It starts with Tim and Sam pitching their ad to the owner of Husky Boys clothing store, and continually using terms for the children that offend the owner (like “Big Ol’ Butterball”). The owner, Chuck, tells the two about the story that got Tim’s dad, “Big Hank” Cramblin committed. (Like the owner with the non-“husky” terms, Tim is offended by the use of “nuts” to describe his dad: “Actually, it’s ‘bonkers.'”) The story is told in great detail and as a result is howlingly funny; Big Hank walked into a pitch meeting for Hudson’s Department Store with a briefcase full of shit and the back half of his suit cut off, and went around serving everyone at the meeting little piles of shit.

The two head back to the office to think of taglines for the Husky Boys commercial… where they encounter Big Hank waiting in his old office. He claims the asylum set him free; Hank’s back in business.

Former pro wrestler Kevin Nash plays Big Hank, and he’s terrific in the role, combining the sort of Mad Men-esque approach to on-the-job behavior one might expect from the advertising world with a naturally gruff physicality that plays off Tim’s gawkier look well. Hart doesn’t overplay it, though, which would be easy to do in a role like this, and it works so much better for it.

What’s interesting– and perhaps the touch that continues to make Detroiters uniquely enjoyable– is that so many of the beats of this episode don’t go quite as we’d expect from television and sitcom convention; the show is never all that harsh towards Tim and Sam. For example: The three men go to lunch with a representative from Downriver Ale, and he makes the old joke as a toast: “To our wives and girlfriends. May they never meet!” Tim takes offense, and gives a speech about how much he respects his wife. It seems like the sort of thing that a television viewer would expect to kill the sales meeting… except that Big Hank effortlessly steers the conversation into the pitch, waxing nostalgic (with Tim’s help) about Tim used to steal Downriver Ales from his fridge as kid. “You want to be the funny beer, you go ahead, but to us, Downriver Ale is no joke.” And then, Sam tells his own version of the joke, and you expect it to die. But Big Hank and the client like it!

Similarly, we’d expect an imposing and successful presence like Big Hank to be disappointed in or physically intimidating toward his son, but instead, they have a great relationship for most of the episode. Unfortunately, Tim and Sam see Mort Crim’s report that the security guards at the asylum went on strike, and all the patients escaped. They have to bring Big Hank back… but not before one last night on the town with the two boys, culminating in a sunrise on the lake.

The day goes so smoothly (wolf howl at the sunrise aside) that we start wondering: Is Big Hank really crazy? After they drop him off at the asylum at the end, Tim throws a lampshade on it all: “It was like we were spending the day with the best version of my dad. With none of the anger, fits of rage, paranoia… fecal hoarding…” And in the background, as Tim drones on, we watch Big Hank not enter the asylum, but punch a motorcyclist and steal his ride, terrorizing the orderlies.

A pretty hilarious episode from start to finish and, if you’re going to play the card of who Big Hank is, a great way to use it.

Stray Quotes and Observations:

  • Sam’s version of the “wives and girlfriends” joke: “To our mouths and buttholes. May they never meet!” Well, it is true.
  • Sam, when he and Tim walk in on Big Hank watching a videotape of an old Cramblin Advertising Christmas party: “Wow, Sheila was even hotter back then.”
  • Speaking of Sheila, she steals her two scenes with Big Hank back, first hanging on him while telling Tim “You ain’t shit,” and then flirting with Big Hank while the three men get on the elevator by dropping a pen and picking it up. (Hank appreciates it. Tim and Sam don’t, and Tim’s rubber face needs to be mentioned as one of the show’s secret weapons.)
  • If I haven’t mentioned it before, apparently Mort Crim was the inspiration for Ron Burgundy.
  • Lea, in her inimitable way, sums up the Big Hank experience in a nutshell: “There’s a gigantic man in your office. He gave me some great notes on a commercial, and then he asked me to cut off the back half of his suit.”
  • When Tim calls the asylum to alert them to bring him his dad, he gets connected to the orderlies, who have their own sort of old-school hip-hop squad thing going. In one brief scene, they manage to be really funny in that peculiar and specific way that makes Detroiters so charming.
  • Act two starts with us coming in on the end of the Downriver Ale representative’s story: “So I drop the knife, my hand is covered in blood, and here comes Big Hank riding a motorcycle he stole from God knows where! I hop on, I shut my eyes, and the next thing I know, we’re back in San Diego!” (Also a nice bit of foreshadowing toward Big Hank’s last scene.)
  • Speaking of Big Hank’s last scene, he nails the tagline: “Husky Jeans, Skinny Prices.”
  • Tim and Big Hank’s final exchange before that :
    • HANK: You know, there’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you. The meeting at Hudson’s? The shit in the briefcase? It wasn’t my shit.
      TIM: I think that actually makes it worse, Dad.
      HANK: It does?
      TIM: Yeah.
      HANK: Huh.
  • Tim Robinson fans should check out his appearance in the most recent Making History. The show’s been up and down (the writing occasionally comes across like a first draft) and largely carried by Leighton Meester, but Tim Robinson is easily the funniest Al Capone I’ve ever seen. (And like his work here, it’s funny because it’s so specific. Apparently Al Capone has some real fears of being excluded from social gatherings.)