Starring and co-written by SNL and Detroiters star Tim Robinson this is Netflix’s latest comedy series, and it’s impressive stuff all in all. I’ve not seen Robinson’s work on SNL because I struggle with that show, for every good episode there’s two or three weak ones, but Detroiters is a fantastic comedy which was sadly cancelled after just two seasons when it should have run for years and years. Robinson also created it and wrote a good few episodes so on the strength of that I was optimistic this would be great, and it more than surpassed my expectations.
In this opening episode there’s just five sketches, all with new characters and situations which is something I always appreciate in a sketch show. Not that reoccurring characters is always a bad thing, and I’ve no idea if any of the ones seen here will pop up again in later episodes, but sometimes the joke wears thing if repeated over and over again in uninteresting ways. There’s no connection or link between them either, they’re just five very funny slices of life, some absurd, some dark, some just plain silly and all of them hit home.
The first is a short skit where Robinson tries to leave a cafe, insisting that the door can be opened in either direction, and though he’s wrong that doesn’t stop him trying, eventually destroying it. Now that may not seem like the funniest thing ever but it’s effectively directed (by The Lonely Island star Akiva Schaffer and Documentary Now! producer Alice Mathias) and the performance from Robinson generates a lot of laughs. After this there’s an advert where a lawyer played by Robinson asks if a particularly strange incident has ever happened to the viewer, and the way the story unfolds is pretty hysterical material, including builders replacing a real toilet with “a fart toilet”, and once again Robinson’s acting skills make it brutally funny.
The third sketch of the episode is “Baby of the Year” where a contest is hosted by Robinson’s Detroiters co-star Sam Richardson. Richardson sings an impressive opening number and then introduces the three finalists with the last being “Bad boy of the competition Bart Harley Jarvis” who the audience hate, screaming out “Fuck you Harley Jarvis” and “I hope you fucking die Harley Jarvis” at various points. It’s a viciously funny send up of such competitions and is easily the best sketch of the show, even though the other four are bloody great too, and just when I thought it couldn’t become any funnier an “In Memoriam” segment is introduced, where former contestants who have now died at a fair old age are spoken about, and each time the bizarre way they died is mentioned to hilarious effect.
Following this comes a brief part where three women are posting the same photo on social media, with two of them being self-deprecating but the third making comments like “Slapping down some pig shit with these fat fucks”, completely failing to understand why such a thing isn’t funny, it’s a simple idea, at least compared to the other sketches, but once again pulled off brilliantly thanks to the sparkling dialogue and strong performances. Then the final sketch sees The Walking Dead star Steven Yeun opening presents at a birthday party, only for it to spiral wildly in to bizarre territories thanks to Robinson’s paranoid party goer, and it contains a beautifully bleak but very funny pay off.
One of the biggest problems with a lot of Netflix comedy series is that given the freedom to create episodes of any length some show’s have suffered, Arrested Development most glaringly was a tight and efficient beast when on Fox but the Netflix years saw it get far too flabby. So it’s great for once to see a series on the streaming service where that doesn’t apply, just seventeen minutes long it’s impressive joke after joke, performed by an extremely talented cast, and if the rest of the episodes are this fantastic then in what’s already been a dazzling year for comedy this could be one of the very best comedy series of 2019.