One And Done: Life On Parole

life on parole index

If a tv series was written by Judd Apatow and Brent Forrester and directed by Jon Favreau today it’d all but definitely be given a full series, even if it was only based on a slurred, drunken pitch about what it might plausibly be about. But back in 2003 despite all involved having had some success (Favreau with Elf and Swingers, Apatow with The Larry Sanders Show and Freaks and Geeks, while Forrester had written for both The Simpsons and King Of The Hill) a pilot was made but a series not given.

Set in a parole office, Dave (Dave Herman) is a world weary parole officer (no, really!) who isn’t exactly passionate about his job and who can blame him when his day starts with a guy called Joey (Louis Lombardi) running off rather than give a urine sample, and when Dave tackles him to the ground he pisses all over him, or as it’s described in the show “We got a leaker”. When at home he’s desperately trying to get a job as a car salesman, and it’s here we meet Charlie (RonReaco Lee), a client of Dave’s who’s currently crashing on his sofa and exists to prove that Dave isn’t such a bad sort.

Back at work and we meet Dave’s boss Ernie (Coen Brothers regular Jon Polito), who asks him to train a new member of staff after an old one supposedly quit, though the actual truth is that he was stabbed in the neck, and Dave being a minor shit says no until he learns that the trainee is an attractive woman in the form of Loretta (Ugly Betty co-star Ana Ortiz) and so of course he then promises to help her out.

Rather than just follow Dave and Loretta around the show spends some time with Charlie as he attempts to work in a fast food restaurant for a living, but is then fired for upsetting a clearly autistic manager in scenes which are a little uncomfortable and not exactly sensitive to anyone with the condition. Charlie’s storyline then ties in with Dave and Loretta’s after he’s arrested, and further more when Loretta suggests Dave take pity on the previously rather pissy Joey, only for that to backfire and Joey becomes murderous.

Said violence is played for laughs of course, as is Dave’s mild sexism towards Loretta as he flirts with her in a dubious manner, and only promises to help Joey because he was hoping Loretta might then fuck him. It turns out she was going to as well, but after he has a tantrum after almost being killed she tells him she no longer plans to, in scenes which make Dave borderline unlikeable.

It’s an odd beast and given those behind it the show really should be funnier than it is. There’s the odd amusing moment or line, and Biff from Back To The Future turns up in a couple of scenes as an antagonistic cop and has a vaguely funny scene with Dave, but most of the time it feels surprisingly dated for a show which was only made fifteen years ago, and it’s attitudes towards women made me feel a little uncomfortable even though Loretta gets to be ballsy in the final scene.

It’s biggest problem though is that despite the supporting characters being strong, Dave isn’t exactly the most appealing lead. Maybe over time they could have made him to a more likeable character, or doubled down on the concept and made the show about what a ridiculous idiot he is, and perhaps then it could have developed in to something more interesting and more amusing, but as it is we’re not exactly talking about a televisual tragedy having taken place given that only one episode was ever made.

Alex Finch.
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