Tag Archives: satire

Decoding NTSF:SD:SUV

The title of Adult Swim’s newest comedy, NTSF:SD:SUV, makes the target of its satire plainly obvious: the high-octane crime procedural. With its shakey-cam action sequences, melodramatic dialogue, and cash-in/spin-off model of programming, the genre is rife for parody. Appropriately, NTSF began as a fake promo on its Adult Swim neighbor, the hospital-drama parody Childrens Hospital. Like Childrens, it’s creator-lead actor (Paul Scheer) has surrounded himself with a hilarious cast. Here’s a breakdown of the NTSF team.

Character: Trent Hauser, lead agent
A combination of: The no-holds-barred techniques of 24‘s Jack Bauer and the snappy one-liners of CSI: Miami‘s Horatio Cane
Played by: Paul Scheer
Seen before as: Douchebag, MD Andre on The League, one third of sketch troupe Human Giant.

Character: Kove, head of NTSF
Inspiration: Nick Fury’s eye patch
Played by: Kate Mulgrew
Seen before as: Kathryn Janeway, captain of the USS:Voyager on the mediocre Star Trek series of the same name

Character: Jessie Nichols, lab tech
Trope parodied: The “ugly” girl who just needs to lose the glasses
Played by: Rebecca Romijn
Seen before as: Mystique in the X-Men films, Alexis Meade on Ugly Betty

Character: Alphonse, Trent’s partner
One-line bio: Field agent with an irrational fear of science
Played by: Brandon Johnson
Seen before as: Background characters in your favorite comedies

Character: Piper, Trent’s other partner
Major malfunction: Trigger-happy with something to prove
Played by: June Diane Raphael
Also known as: Scheer’s life partner and Casey Wilson’s (Happy Endings) comedy partner.

Character: Sam, head of communications
Not to be confused with: S.A.M., his robotic nemesis
Played by: Martin Starr
Cult TV roles: The lovable Bill Haverchuck on Freaks and Geeks and the loathable Roman on Party Down

While that covers the NTSF crew, the cast doesn’t stop there. Guest stars include, among others, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, JK Simmons, Rob Riggle, John Cho, and even the bad guy from The Karate Kid.

“If you’re a terrorist planning on attacking San Diego, you better think again… twice.” NTSF:SD:SUV airs Thursdays at 12:15am on Adult Swim.

First thoughts: "Jon Benjamin Has a Van"

Comedian Jon Benjamin is the voice behind such classic characters as Coach McGuirk on Home Movies and Ben on Dr. Katz. Currently, he’s pulling double-duty as the titular characters on Archer and Bob’s Burgers. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s now starring as a fictional version of himself on Comedy Central’s Jon Benjamin Has a Van.

Jon Benjamin Has a Van (airing Wednesdays at 10:30) lampoons news magazines with a combination of sketch comedy and real-life pranks. Tearing down news mags has been done before, no doubt; for most of its history, The Daily Show featured such parodies, but none were anchored by a deadpan as vicious as Jon Benjamin’s. And none had a news van as creepy, either.

In the first two episodes, Jon’s interview subjects have been riffs on the “heroes” usually featured in such programs. In one, sketch comedy veteran Jay Johnston (Mr. Show, The Sarah Silverman Program) played a reporter who bravely interviewed a man disfigured by a grain thresher. In another, Jon’s contempt for a man wounded in basic training, played by Delocated‘s Jon Glaser, is plainly visible: “That helicopter sound must not remind you of war, ’cause you were never there.”

Jon Benjamin Has a Van Weds 10:30/9:30c
Injured Veteran
Comedy Central TV Shows Comedy Videos

The centerpiece of each episode is a long-form or recurring sketch, whether crossing the border with UCB alum Matt Walsh or investigating a battle between Little Italy and Little Little Italy (think Lilliputians). In the latter, Jon gets caught in a mafia war and romances the tiny boss’s daughter. A fun genre parody, but the image of Jon Benjamin writhing in ecstasy is now burned into my brain.

Nino: …I trusted you with my little girl… and you slept with her!
Jon: With all due respect, sir, she’s a full grown woman. She can make her own decisions.
Nino: She’s 15, you sick fuck!
Jon: What?… I couldn’t tell, the scale was off, she’s so small.

The pranks find Jon in the role of the man-on-the-street talent, ad-libbing with the same acerbic wit of his written material. Asking real people for their opinion of gay marriage at inopportune times is funnier than it should be; even when the bit falls apart, like when a man in a movie theater actually engages him, it’s still effective. A highlight of the pranks is a parody of Cash Cab called Cash Stall that nearly gets his ass kicked.

Jon Benjamin Has a Van Weds 10:30/9:30c
Cash Stall
Comedy Central TV Shows Comedy Videos

Not everything works. “You Can’t Shoot Here!” is a one-gag bit, and ridiculing how the elderly use the Internet is too easy. So far, there have been as many gun battles as there have been episodes; the violent conclusions will either become redundant or one of the show’s trademarks, it’s still too early to tell. But with a talent like Jon Benjamin at the helm, the show hits more than it misses. Here’s hoping Comedy Central doesn’t take his keys away any time soon.

Catching up on "Delocated"

I’m not sure how Delocated flew below my radar for so long. Like Childrens Hospital, it is a live-action series with comedy veterans at its core: Delocated stars writer-creator Jon Glaser, who has written for Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Human Giant, among others. But instead of parodying the medical show genre like Childrens Hospital, Delocated takes the reality show to its logical – and extreme – conclusion.

Delocated is a mock-reality series that revolves around “Jon” (Glaser) and his family, who entered the Witness Protection Program after Jon testified against a Russian crime family. With the aid of ski masks and voice modulators, Jon and his family try to start over in New York City, but things quickly go awry. Their no-frills studio apartment is far from the luxury loft promised by network executives. “Why else would I put my family on camera and risk them being murdered if I wasn’t in a sweet loft? That’s what makes it worth it!” Jon asks, exasperated. With this revelation, Jon’s wife Susan takes their son David to a hotel; soon, the two remove their ski masks and their modulators (the latter, surgically). Jon is left to carry the reality show, his exploits and adventures its sole focus.

Jon is brash, irritating, and self-obsessed: the perfect reality TV star. After separating from Susan, his relationship with her and David is rocky, at best. He melts down at David’s ska-themed Bar Mitzvah and on the set of the TV movie based on their lives (Susan sold the rights). With his family mostly out of the picture, Jon is free to pursue fame and fortune with a series of half-baked ideas, which are typically disposed after each episode, never to be mentioned again. One of these is the Rage Cage, a business that specializes in relaxation through destruction. He meets Kim at the Cage, who soon becomes his girlfriend and the target of his emotional abuse.

Jon might have a new girlfriend and a series of gigs, but the Russian mob is still trying to kill him. Tasked with the assassination is Yvgeny Mirminsky (played by Eugene Mirman), son of the boss and Yakov Smirnoff-esque comedian. Yvgeny is hapless at both, whether accidentally killing Paul Rudd or delivering yet another vodka-based punchline; hanging out with Todd Barry (playing himself) doesn’t seem to help with either. It’s only when Yvgeny’s sociopathic brother Sergei takes over that things get serious: like a lion picking off the weak from the herd, Sergei starts to torture and murder everyone close to Jon.

While Delocated is a parody of the genre, its also a larger satire of the television industry. Jon’s contact at the network, Mighty Joe Jon the Black Blonde (the hilarious Jerry Minor), has also given a reality show to the Mirminsky clan. Mighty Joe Jon: the Black Blonde – always referred to by his whole moniker – is not afraid to get his hands dirty in the fight for ratings.

The comedy of Delocated is served dark and dry. Jon’s lack of self awareness is played for laughs at every turn, even as he literally loses everything and everyone around him. After two seasons and nineteen episodes, the show was renewed for a third season which is filming now. The first two seasons will be released on DVD this fall, so for now, catch a few episodes over at Adult Swim.