Pat Byrne is one of the men behind the acclaimed The Special Without Brett Davis, a much loved PBS series that’s featured an impressive selection of comedians, while Dan McNamara’s an artist and responsible for the highly praised Wish Weasel web series. Neither have so far achieved the fame they deserve though, which is in many ways surprising as their 2007 short “Redeeming Rainbow” shows them to be two very funny men indeed.
As well as writing and directing the pilot they play the leads, two guys in their twenties who live with a rainbow (voiced by Kurt Braunohler) who comes complete with a cartoon face, and is deliberately quite annoying too, being upbeat and irritatingly perky and prone to making friends with unusual types including a then pre-famous Kristin Schaal. Schaal’s not the only well known face in the pilot either as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper is Pat and Dan’s neighbour Shelly, who they both lust after.
As first episode’s go despite the high concept the plot isn’t particularly that complicated with Pat and Dan taking in Rainbow and giving him somewhere to live as he was homeless. Then over the fifteen odd minute running time we’re introduced to the people in their lives, like Kemper’s Shelly Brooks, a woman who thinks they’re joking about living with a rainbow and who fails to notice both Pat and Dan’s desperate attempts at flirtation, and there’s also Schaal’s deliberately unnamed character who Pat and Dan call “Smelly” and “Creepy psychopath” because both descriptions clearly definitely apply.
There’s also the local priest, Father Gary, who doubles as the building’s supervisor and is always trying to get Pat and Dan to go to Church, and who gives Rainbow therapy as “I think he’s an excellent atmospheric trick of light, but he’s dealing with a lot of abuse that he took in the sky.” Then finally there’s Jackson, Rainbow’s son, as Rainbow regularly gives birth to children even though “Most of my babies die after the first week”.
As you’ve probably ascertained from the above it’s a bizarre piece of comedy and then some, but it works because it mixes the surreal with the mundane incredibly well. So though “Creepy psychopath” is an extremely odd woman, the way she and Rainbow sit watching tv consisting of “Three and a half more hours of baby faces” is believably funny, and everyone reacting to Rainbow as if it’s completely normal for such a creation to exist and happily live in a grotty apartment creates a lot of laughs.
At first I thought only the pilot featuring the characters had been made but a while later discovered that they made a few extra episodes of the show (though they’re much shorter, and basically make up most of a second proper one) and broadcast them via FunnyOrDie and youtube, and in these mini-episodes it’s revealed that despite being involved in a serious hang-gliding accident at the end of the pilot Rainbow’s alive and seemingly unhurt.
The second episode is a slightly choppier affair, where after a brief recap we’re presented with a newsreel from the fifties that explains the existence of “Rainbowland”, which is all a slightly pointless origin story for Rainbow. Then the plot sort of kicks in and it revolves around Father Gary having angrily attempted to destroy Shelly’s wizard statue in the garden, with Pat fixing it for her. That backfires however as the wizard then comes alive, and though Pat and Byrne mock his powers initially it turns out he does have some magical ability as he makes their boiler sentient.
It ends on a cliffhanger which I’m guessing they originally planned to follow up on but sadly didn’t, which is a real shame as even though the second episode isn’t quite as good as the first it still shows a lot of promise, Rainbow continues to be an endearingly weird character and the ideas are nicely silly. It misses the presence of Kristin Schaal’s unnamed friend and Father Gary’s priest, and the dialogue isn’t quite as strong, but it still made me laugh and hey, that’s obviously the main thing.
It’s a deliberately low budget series and works because of it’s lo-fi charm, the absurdity of the situations and the fact that Rainbow is such a ridiculous character, . So it’s disappointing that FunnyOrDie (or Adult Swim or some other channel) didn’t pick it up and give it a series as it clearly wouldn’t have cost much to do so, and as long as Byrne and McNamara spent a little more time on the scripts than they did for the second episode this could have been a show many would have cherished.