Wow. I mean … Wow. Where to begin? The Pentaverate is Mike Myers’s first major project since 2008’s The Love Guru, and for good reason. It appears Myers learned nothing in the past 14 years, and The Pentaverate is as big a dud as he’s ever made.
But, to be fair, let’s start with all the positives I found in this 6-episode series:
1. The gag where Canada is shot in standard definition while America is in HD is mildly amusing.
2. Reilly (Lydia West) and Patty (Debi Mazar) are great and deserve better material.
3. I’ve now written Pentaverate enough times that I no longer write Pentaverse or Pentatonix by mistake.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. For 3 hours I didn’t laugh once, although the corner of my mouth lifted a few times. Myers’s story of the world’s only all-powerful secret society led by “nice guys” is heavy on prosthetics, bad accents, and shouting, and short on everything else. The Pentaverate are 5 powerful (ie white, old) men who lead an anachronistic organization that rules the world through the secret manipulation of the wealthy and famous. When a Pentaverate member is murdered, as his replacement — a criminally wasted Keegan-Michael Key saving the world from climate change — the remaining members (all played by Myers) must discover the traitor in their midst. Meanwhile, Myers as Canadian reporter Ken Scarborough works for CACA News and in a desperate effort to save his job interviewing people on the street, joins up with a conspiracy theorist (Myers) to expose the Pentaverate, egged on by an Alex Jones clone (also Myers).
Ultimately, Myers plays what seems like 15 characters, and they’re all equally terrible. The remaining cast apart from West and Mazar is weighed down by stage makeup and a godawful script written by 10-year-olds cryogenically frozen since 2002. At 58, Myers remains fascinated by scatological humor and squeezes out a turd joke every 5 minutes. The comedic heights of The Pentaverate are reached in the second or third episode — I don’t care enough to look up which — when Ken plays billiards against a foul-mouthed American over a security fob needed to access the secret society. When a Netflix exec breaks into the video stream to talk about how terrible the language is, they recut the scene to remove the curses, which leaves the remaining footage simulating porn. “Get it??” I imagine Myers excitedly telling actual Netflix executives, “It’s funny because getting rid of the swears makes it seem like these guys are banging!” And then the money men, satiated after dining on fired Tudum writers, nod absently and hand Myers another million dollars.
It’s not even a fun hate-watch. I felt nothing apart from a vague sympathy for the actresses subjected to this script. I haven’t been that numb since I accidentally got so high my hands felt like they belonged to someone else. I can’t say the story falls apart at the end because at no point is it held together with more than paste and Scotch tape. As of this morning, the show is polling at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, easily 110% better than it deserves. I don’t even know who this show was made for, apart from Myers himself. It’s too mature for children and too juvenile for even the most inebriated adults. Only a concussed kitten couldn’t guess who is the villain. It skewers conspiracy theorists and the media personalities that encourage them but is better suited for a 9-minute SNL skit. Even that would be several minutes too long.
I’ll give Myers this much credit: despite his age and relative obscurity, he hasn’t fallen down the same rabbit hole of transphobia and white resentment that’s claimed so many comedic contemporaries. His entire point — poop jokes aside — is that millennia of control by the cruel and selfish have left the world in dire straits and it’s time we stop listening to the same shouting voices. To give the “nice” people a chance. Where it fails, and where writers like The Guardian’s Charles Bramesco miss their mark when they critique modern television, is mistaking “niceness” for “kindness.” A nice person is polite and attentive at the moment, but it’s shallow. Surface level. Being kind requires strength and honesty as well as empathy. Part of the reason Nate goes full Sith in Ted Lasso’s second season is that Ted and Keeley are so busy being nice that they don’t call Nate on his bad behavior. There’s no structure for his development and a lifetime of emotional abuse left Nate incapable of getting there on his own. When Keeley called Rebecca on her shit in the first season and gave Rebecca the strength to confess her manipulations to Ted, that was kindness in action. Balance is required. The Pentaverate settles for being nice, and that’s the most serious of its many flaws.
Ultimately, Myers’s good intentions don’t matter when chained to so plodding and childish a production. There’s no thrill, no humor, and no life to The Pentaverate. Despite all the shouting and flashing lights, it’s as monotonous as the prolonged beep of a heart monitor hooked to a corpse. It’s at least a decade too late to be relevant and a huge waste of Netflix’s remaining goodwill and capital. Please, for your own sake, allow The Pentaverate to remain as secret as Jimmy Hoffa’s resting place.
Header Image Source: Netflix screenshots