I’ve been all rather fond of Rob Corddry for a long time now, ever since Childrens Hospital debuted in 2008 and he played a doctor who thought that the healing power of laughter could cure anyone, which naturally led to much death and destruction. Also one of the co-creators of the series along with David Wain and Jonathan Stern it was an endlessly inventive series which played around with a ridiculous amount of fun ideas, and the show ran for 78 superb episodes over seven seasons. Corddry also co-created Adult Swim’s Newsreaders, one of the few news satire shows that consistently made me laugh (and gave Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise one of his best roles), it only lasted for two seasons but each episode was a real gem. So when I heard he was co-creating a new series, The Hindenburg Explodes!, I presumed it would be picked up straight away. But all rather sadly that wasn’t to be.
Possibly one of the reasons it didn’t go to series is because it’s an extremely high concept show, where any number of people might be responsible for the Hindenburg disaster. For those not in the know, the Hindenburg was a German Zeppelin airship which exploded in 1937 in America and thirty six people tragically died. Now that might not seem one of the most sensitive and considerate ideas ever to base a sitcom around, but given that it took place over eighty years ago presumably enough time has past for no one to be upset, and a brief google certainly suggests there was no outcry. What probably helped is how over the top the show is, and that Corddry and co have created something unusually special here.
The pilot begins with a cigarette girl called Trixie (Corddry’s Ballers co-star Jazmyn Simon) handily providing some exposition for anyone unaware of the Hindenburg, and we learn that Hitler is soon to arrive, though sadly he then decides against it and instead sends his favourite pet (“A Gerbil named Goebbels”) to represent him. Soon enough it turns out that a whole bunch of people might be responsible for the zeppelin exploding, from the The Wright Brothers (played by Rob Corddry and his brother Nate Corddry) who worry that their legacy will be as forgotten as “prescription dildos and the electric car” if the Hindenburg is a success, to Penelope Brown (Lauren Lapkus), an adventurer who wants to kill Hitler. You can also add John Cho’s Reggie Brown in to the mix, a time traveller who also wants to murder the führer, and who’s hilariously inept at hiding the fact that he’s from the future.
He quickly teams up with Penelope after the following exchange: “What do you like to do in your spare time Penelope Brown?” / “Mostly I try and kill Hitler” / “What a coincidence, me too!”, which made me laugh a great deal, and they plan to do so by inserting a bomb in to Goebbels the Gerbil as Penelope presumes Hitler intends to put the poor mammal in his anus. There’s some fun flirtation between them as well, with the line “I could be your arse gerbil” making me smirk. Meanwhile The Wright Brothers are helped by Trixie who suggests the way to destroy the zeppelin’s reputation is to turn it in to a giant fart machine by pumping it full of methane, with Rob Corddy gleefully exclaiming “Two seat bi-planes made out of wood will remain king forever!”.
To make proceedings even more surreal there’s a gang of Nazi’s and an Egyptian Mummy on the loose, and towards the end it looks like all manner of things could cause the ship to blow up, from Penelope and Reggie’s bomb, the methane flooding the zeppelin, with The Orville Brothers and Trixie celebrating by trying to light a cigar, whilst the Mummy attacks the pilot (beautifully played by Kids In The Hall’s Kevin McDonald) causing the ship to lurch all over the sky. Fortunately Tony The Magician (Danny Pudi, great as always) pops up to save the day, whilst the bomb doesn’t go off and the Orville Brothers fail to spark up their cigars. So what kills everyone? Well, I won’t give that away, but it’s a fantastically silly payoff that made me laugh hard.
Given that the show ends (and this really shouldn’t be a spoiler given the title) with the Hindenburg exploding it’s difficult to know how this could have been made in to an ongoing series, though as it contains time travel I’m sure the writers would have worked out a way. Even then it might not have been a series which could have run for years, but I still feel that Adult Swim made a big mistake by not picking this up, it’s incredibly silly and enjoyable stuff which will make you laugh a lot.
You can watch the pilot on Adult Swim’s website.