One of the reasons I’ve found Detroiters so delightful is that it engages in something rarely seen on TV: a close and affectionate male friendship. (I want to say “healthy,” but these guys might be a little too codependent for that to be the case.) Most male friendships on TV tend to be shallow, dysfunctional, bro-ed out, or some combination of all of the above. Of course, this is in part because most TV is shallow and bad, but it’s also something prestige TV doesn’t really deal with– the first round of shows in the Second Golden Age was largely concerned with male antiheroes (and their relationships are naturally dysfunctional); the 2010s have seen a wealth of diversity on screen, but rarely depict strong male friendships and the values and virtues of them. (Even tales that do powerfully depict how emotionally open friendships can make men better people often start with some guys who were pretty fucked up to begin with.)
Tim and Sam might be a little too codependent, but their friendship is bold and open in a way few on television are, and they’re unashamed to express those feelings. So, then, it’s both fitting and a delight that the season 2 finale of Detroiters (which might mark the end of the series, but let’s hope not) is a reaffirmation of the value of that friendship.
Granted, it happens in a bit of a roundabout way, with a plot whose outcome is seemingly evident as soon as it begins: In the cold open, after another failed pitch (winning the D Award has gotten Cramblin-Duvet’s foot in the door at much bigger companies, but they haven’t actually closed a pitch yet), Sam and Tim return home to find Angel (ref. “Lois”) on Sam’s stoop, telling him she’s pregnant, and he’s the father.
This cues up some mixed emotions– Sam, deep down, seems to show sincere interest in being a father, but not like this– but where it hits hardest is when Sam talks to his father about the situation. His father tells him he’s got to take his responsibilities seriously now, and start bringing in a real steady paycheck, so he offers him a job at his restaurant chain, Royals Steakhouse. “I know you and Tim like to have fun, but you’re gonna need a career.” (Confirmation, too, that Cramblin-Duvet is not doing well by any particular measure.) This really hits home with Sam, and when he’s talking to Tim later, he confesses that he just can’t keep chasing pipe dreams. After Sam blows the pitch to Wonderground (a music store) by getting overly aggressive with the owner, he tells Tim he just can’t do this anymore and leaves the company to work at Royals.
We really start to see how much the two men need each other here. Tim is completely incompetent on his own, flailing; he’s already prone to outbursts that require Sam’s charm to smooth it over, and without Sam around, those outbursts become even more frequent. (“You run a business with your son, and I’m corny? You couldn’t even find another grown man to go into business with.”) He can’t handle the other workers with Sam gone, as well; his coping strategy is to try to pressure Tommy Pencils into dressing and acting like Mr. Bean.
Sam is clearly not happy at Royals, either; he’s competent enough at the job, but has no passion for it, which is underlined when Tim brings Bruce from 1-2-3 Warehouse in for a lunch pitch. Sam offers to comp their meal, and while Tim is flailing to come up with a tagline (including accidentally referencing Bruce’s main competition, A-B-C Warehouse), Sam slides in and effortlessly offers “1-2-3 Warehouse: You can count on us.” For whatever successes and failures the two have had, Sam does have a talent for advertising, that combined with Tim’s enthusiasm, could take them far. (Of course, if Tim had Trevor’s talent, they could go even farther. But let’s not crap on Tim too much; he’s already having a hard week.)
The story ends in relatively predictable fashion; Angel comes into Royals to tell Sam the baby’s not his. He is genuinely disappointed– and upon meeting the baby’s real father, Pleasure (not even going to try to guess the origins of that name), greets him with “You’re obviously very handsome, your sperm is clearly stronger than mine, so, congratulations.”) But Sam also makes the decision to go back to Cramblin-Duvet, breaking the news to Tim one morning as they leave their houses (next door to each other, don’t forget) to start heading onto their morning commutes… only for Sam, like a wrestler doing a heel-face turn, to tear off his Royals Steakhouse shirt to reveal… well, a t-shirt underneath, but the point is it’s Cramblin-Duvet wear. While Tim watches and starts excitedly shouting “Yes! Yes! Yes!”, Sam gets in his car. The two best friends, united again.
Appropriately enough, the episode closes with Tim and Sam at their favorite watering hole (which I just learned this episode is called “Temple Bar”; I’m not sure if we’ve seen an external shot previously), sharing a pint of beer with two straws, like sweethearts at a soda shop, while Mort Crim closes the news: “It’s annual Friendship Day here in Detroit. That’s why I brought my best friend Dave to hang out. He’s a slob, but I love him. Good night, Detroit.”
A fitting end for this show if we never get more. But Detroiters has created such a rich and specific world, with so many memorable characters, and a central relationship unique on television, while remaining true to the city of Detroit– and just being so damn funny— that it’s clear Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson have many more stories to tell, and it would be a real shame if they didn’t get the chance.
STRAY TAG LINES
- Sam and Tim make a trip to Better Made Chips in the cold open, where their pitch turns ugly when the exec they pitch to doesn’t immediately love their commercial idea. And in the tag, they’re on the factory floor stealing chips from the machines until someone catches them.
- Like many of the companies Sam and Tim attempt to pitch, Better Made is a real Detroit company. Other real Detroit companies they name drop in the cold open: Shinola, Belle Tire, Quicken Loans (seen as far back as the series premiere). Apparently not a real company: Downriver Ale, though it’s the beer of choice for Big Hank and Tim Cramblin alike.
- Tim’s gift for physical comedy shows again when he literally falls over sideways in the background after Angel tells Sam she’s pregnant.
- The proprietor of Wonderground apparently goes berserk if you suggest to him the jam session is over.
- Tim pukes when Sam tells him he’s going to leave.
- Sam’s dad to Sam: “Royals Steakhouse is a monorail, a safe and dependable monorail.
I mean, would you put a baby on a roller coaster?” Sam: “Well, it depends on how tall the baby is, I guess.”
- Sam to Tim: “We need stability. I mean, would you take a baby on a roller coaster?” Tim: “I mean, like, to save its life? Yeah!”
- Angel’s cousin tries to paint a nautical theme for the baby’s new room, including a mermaid. “Oh! It’s got a bush?” “He said it was historically accurate.”
- Sam singing The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You” to Angel’s womb defies description.
- “I think it goes without saying you’re not getting the job.” “Yeah, and I think it goes without saying that you should get out, ’cause one of you’s ugly, and it runs in the family.”
- It’s hard not to want to post all the aspects of Tim’s meltdown. Just one more: “Well, that’s it. We’re shutting down. Call Dodge and tell them we’re out. I will continue to commute to work, but my briefcase will be empty. I will no longer pursue new clients, and I will do nothing to keep the ones we have, and I ask you to do the same. We will keep going until the money runs out, then we die. So from now on, it’s Camp Do What You Wanna. Tommy, keep wearing the big suit, please.”
- “You’re right, he does talk like Tavis Smiley.” “Good! I’m glad I do.”
- Tim and Sam are bought a beer at the end by a man named Ramon, who earlier had offered to be Tim’s new best friend after Sam left the company, an offer Tim bluntly and crudely rejected.
- “Look, in ten years, I’m gonna be managing four of these restaurants. And, hopefully, Cramblin-Duvet’s the biggest ad agency in Detroit. But Tim, I can’t gamble on hopefully. ‘Cause in ten years, my kid’s gonna be nine, and if he’s anything like me, he’s gonna need braces for his legs ’cause his dick’s so big.” A great moment that sums up what this show is all about: The power of friendship, the trials and strains the real world inflicts upon it, and also a ridiculous dick joke.
- Thanks for coming along for the ride. I hope this isn’t the end– De2roit isn’t enough; we need De3roit!