Back in January when much lauded former NBC and Fox exec Kevin Reilly took the helm at TNT and TBS he came with a plan. Not a fake plan that doesn’t exist like the president-elect, but a real plan, which involves multiple platforms and has a very keen eye on the future.
And it’s working like a fucking charm.
I’m a TV snob. I mean, I never wanted to be, but it was a simple filter that saved me tons and tons of wasted time. If a show was on a certain network, say …USA, for example, I’d be like, “nope. All set.”
But similarly to the way The Shield branded FX, Mr. Robot has helped to rebrand USA. UnReal has helped to rebrand Lifetime. I mean … when my friends told me that one of the best shows of last year was on Lifetime, I almost coughed up my beer. But it was legit.
So it goes with Kevin Reilly’s baby, TBS.
I am so fucking hot for TBS, you guys.
The shows on TBS are so much fun. Kevin Reilly’s arrival began with one show in the hopper: Angie Tribeca, which was ordered by his predecessor. It’s the brainchild of wonderful human beings Steve Carrell and his amazing, talented wife Nancy (Walls) Carell.
I love these two so much and I love star Rashida Jones, but for the life of me I CAN’T GET INTO ANGIE TRIBECA! Agh! It must be a character flaw. I’ve tried three times, thinking “I must have missed something…”
But no. It’s just not my speed.
But once Kevin Reilly gets on board, now we have some asskickers in the lineup. First of all, he decides that he’s giving former Daily Show correspondents Samantha Bee and Jason Jones their own show. EACH.
That’s just ballsy. And it pays off. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee came out of the gates firing truth bombs, and what she lacked in initial polish she made up for by being the voice in all of our collective heads who is yelling, “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?”
Jason Jones, meanwhile, delivers The Detour, a road trip comedy with kids who aren’t written like any other kids on TV and this absurdist premise that is just sort of simple and wonderful. The whole thing hinged on the skill of Natalie Zea in her first leading comedy role. Would she have the chops to hang with Jones?
Uh…yeah. She was awesome. I don’t know why I love her so much, but I love her so much. I feel like she’s got this Tea Leoni quality that just works on every level. I don’t know. Love her. Love Jason Jones. Really enjoyed The Detour.
Then you have People of Earth, which I haven’t seen yet, but people seem to really like.
You also have Wrecked, which I tried hard to like, but ultimately I had problems with the casting, and I noticed, unfortunately, that I would be watching multiple episodes and not even cracking a smile. Not a good thing for a comedy. Which is kind of a bummer because I admired the take, and I was on board for the premise of a Lost spoof, but it felt like they didn’t have the horses, either in the writers’ room or on the screen. Pains me to say that.
So, I started writing this as a love letter to Kevin Reilly and TBS, and now it looks like I’m not on board with my own premise. But I am. Right now we’re at 2 great shows, not including Conan. 2 misses for me, but they’ve been renewed so other people like them, and one maybe. Honestly though, they all work from the perspective of taking a chance on sharp comedy and making bold choices that you might not see anywhere else.
But none of that ultimately matters because of Search Party. That’s it, folks! Cash in those chips. It’s over. TBS wins.
Search Party is that rare piece of satire that actually hits the mark with heart. In a way, it defies conventional description because it feels like this patchwork of disparate ideas that somehow works masterfully. The show stars Arrested Development alumna Alia Shawkat as ‘Dory,’ a lost New Yorker who is sort of sleepwalking through her life until a vague acquaintance of hers from college vanishes. It’s hard to say why Dory becomes intent on finding the missing former classmate, but it has a lot to do with her realization that not much would change if she herself up and disappeared.
I mean, it was really good to start. It had a clear position and the comedy was painfully good. And you notice that in addition to some vets like Shawkat and the hysterical Michael Showalter and the uproarious John Early (Wet Hot American Summer)…
…there are all kinds of fresh faces who have real skill and are NAILING IT.
Meredith Hagner plays ‘Portia’, Dory’s self-absorbed actress friend and she’s note perfect.
Brandon Michael Hall plays ‘Julian’, Dory’s ex-boyfriend. I looked him up and I’m like, how does this dude exude so much confidence on the screen? He’s intoxicating and I don’t know if I want to love him or be him, but he’s fantastic.
But the show-stealer is John Reynolds, playing ‘Drew,’ Dory’s limp-wristed uber-weaksauce boyfriend. This dude is CRUSHING IT. I mean, that character —charicature, really— of the lame boyfriend is so done. But Reynolds and the writing staff bring a fresh new light to it. I mean, I just want you to see how aggravating he is. And somehow so relatable and knowable and dare I say…real. Wow. Just impressive.
So, you’re knee-deep in the show and you’re kind of enjoying the ride, because it’s edited crisply and shot deftly and Shawkat is so easy to like and get on board with, and without even noticing at first, you’re like wow, this writing is fucking inspired. To the point where it’s lampooning and coddling an entire generation all at once. With insight and great timing, we’re pulled into the story.
And then! As if that’s not enough! You start to see some showstoppers. Like Christine Taylor, and then Rosie Perez and I was like holy shit!
And then I saw this actor in the background of one of the shots and I was like huh…that looked a lot like Ron Livingston…
Because it WAS Ron Livingston! I mean, come on. I was hooked already, but Ron Livingston? Seeing him was like having someone treat you to a gourmet meal and then having Ron Livingston show up to have dessert with you.
Because you know what the real dessert is? Parker Posey.
She just walks into this one scene and I’m rubbing my eyes like a cartoon character. Parker Posey. I mean, knock it the fuck off. It’s too much. It’s so much fun.
I don’t want to give away any more. I think the show really lines up well with Pajiban sensibilities and while no show is for everyone, this show feels like it comes damn close.
All ten episodes of Search Party are available to you on demand on the all new TBS, and if this show is any indication of the direction Kevin Reilly is sailing the Turner Network, we’re in for a smart, hilarious, satisfying ride.
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