Season 2 Review: 'Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*' Is Brilliantly Critic Proof
If I were going to write a pan of season two of ‘Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*’ — and I’m not, because I love this series — there isn’t a joke that I could make about it that the show doesn’t make itself. Consistently, the biggest punchline on ‘Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*’ is ‘Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*’, and when the show is not making fun of itself, it’s mocking Hollywood, cop-show conventions, industry conventions, awards-season conventions, and Eric Christian Olsen, among others. It also attacks the streaming service upon which it airs — YouTube Premium — with a playful ferocity, part shameless product placement and part Letterman-esque takedown of its corporate overlords, taking particular aim at Cobra Kai, YouTube’s golden boy to Ryan Hansen’s neglected step-child. There’s a hilarious take-no-prisoners approach to the put-downs, too; they’re written and delivered with no regard to the consequences, almost as though no one at YouTube is watching because probably no one at YouTube is actually watching.
In fact, that’s part of what makes season two — equal to the already hysterical season one — so good: There’s a “fuck it” attitude to the proceedings, a kind of go-for-broke mentality that writers take when they know that no one is looking. In my review of the first season, I joked that this show was worth subscribing to YouTube premium for a month and canceling after you watch the show, and this season, the show makes that joke itself. Twice! They’re all out of f**ks.
(I would further note that the show also cracks a self-deprecating joke about how there are no reviews for the first season on Rotten Tomatoes, which may have been true when the episode was shot but it isn’t any longer).
Ryan Hansen returns as … Ryan Hansen, the fourth-wall-breaking detective and modestly well-known television actor solving murders while also trying to land his next part while also trying to promote the show he is currently on, where he solves murders and tries to land his next part. (The meta well runs deep.) In the first season, he was paired with Detective Mathers (Samira Wiley). However, in the season two premiere she is shot and put in a script-induced coma, which just happens to coincide with production on season three of The Handmaid’s Tale (again, that is not my joke; it’s the show’s joke — and her face is obscured by bandages for most of season three for no real reason other than the fact that Samira Wiley is obviously not there, which is itself one of many running jokes).
Hansen is instead paired with a “rogue” cop, Wood Harris, who does not play Wood Harris but Detective Vince Vincente (and like Mathers in the first season, he plays it straight — there are sadly few references to The Wire, although there is a Remember the Titans joke made by Donald “Motherfucking” Faison that may have been my favorite joke of the season. “Left side. STRONG side.”).
Hansen is thus tasked with trying to solve the murder of his former partner, and this being Hollywood, it means investigating a number of celebrities, like Ken Marino — who is directing a Party Down reboot without Hansen — and Stephen Merchant, who complains that he’s being made a suspect as an excuse to feature him in a cameo on the show. There’s also an episode where Jillian Bell and Lucy Hale replace Hansen and Vincente after Hansen signs a diversity rider; an episode where Jane Lynch rips on Rob Corddry for his role on Ballers; and Joel McHale makes another appearance to razz Hansen. Maybe the best cameo of the season comes again from Jon Cryer, whose work on both seasons of the show would be enough to completely rehabilitate his reputation after 12 years of Two and a Half Men if people actually watched Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television.
Jessica St. Clair is also added as a series regular. She plays a former studio executive who has taken over as captain of the precinct in order to, I dunno, goose the ratings both for the precinct and for Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television. It’s that kind of show. It’s almost Dan Harmonesque, except that it takes itself much less seriously and creator Rawson Marshall Thurber doesn’t drunkenly berate his cast (probably).
It’s spectacularly fun, and silly, but smart, and its frame of references could not be more well suited to the readership here at Pajiba, because it does require some inside knowledge of Veronica Mars and Party Down and the public personas of Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, etc. etc. It’s not for everyone, but it is for us, and if I were wealthy enough, I’d give everyone here $12 to subscribe to YouTube Premium for a month and then cancel it after watching Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television* (FYI: Premium content is also available to YouTube TV subscribers, which genuinely is the best streaming cable option).
Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television* premieres on January 30th.
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