Mark Proksch is currently (and deservedly) enjoying a great deal of success due to his role as energy vampire Colin Robertson in What We Do In The Shadows, while Jason Woliner has directed episodes of that show and other amazing comedies like Nathan For You and Eagleheart, so yes, both are two of my favourite people. And back in 2013 they teamed up to create this pilot which never made it to tv, and which sees Proksch as a fake tv presenter on a local tv station’s early morning magazine programme.
The twist is that while Proksch’s Toby Dean is a fictional character, everyone else on it is a real person under the impression that it’s a genuine tv show, and that includes his co-host Kelsa Kinsly, who I spoke to on twitter and who revealed “I had no idea it was a joke, I just thought it was the weirdest day ever! I thought everyone working on set was nuts!! I only found out it was a joke a few months ago when someone else notified me they were doing a piece on it and informed me it was a punked situation…When we were done I went to the ‘production manager’ and asked him whether he’s noticed anything strange? He’s like ‘no nothing’. It was the strangest day I’ve ever spent on set… Wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom or fix my hair. All makes sense now tho! They got me good.”
To Kinsly’s credit she handles the madness with aplomb though, and even gets in a few great lines of her own as she has to cope with Toby’s all round inanity, as he makes odd comments just before the cameras roll that were presumably meant to make her corpse on air, and who then goes on to complain about his wife divorcing him and falsely announces that Morgan Freeman has died with the line “The murdered actor was 75”.
Toby’s not quite Colin Robertson the tv presenter but he’s not a million miles off at times as he mentions odd bits of trivia either on subject or about his personal life, nearly all of which are gloriously funny. For instance when he interviews vet Amber Anderson he offers up the fact “My foster mom always told me that dogs are born dogs end of discussion Toby” but then asks Amber if cats can ever grow in to a dog, while discussion of Cat’s being spayed is grim but hilarious, and as with Kelsa, Amber Anderson deserves a great deal of kudos for going along with it all.
The show becomes even more surreal as Toby talks about a former presenter on the show who’s now involved in a “Prescription forgery and mail fraud scam”, before quickly denying the suggestion that he had any part in it, and then there’s a video of Toby interviewing the “Tri-State Players”, a group of actors in their seventies and eighties who Toby gets to perform “Meet The Buttons”, a Benjamin Buttons fan fiction that is as silly (and as funny) as you’d expect from a character as unusual as Toby, yet the Tri-State Players are game and there giving it their all makes it all the better.
Then we’re back in the studo for a few more segments including “Mom At The Movies” which doesn’t get around to actually reviewing any films as Toby insists on checking that the Mom in question, Sandra, has biological children as Toby does not consider foster parents to be real. Which is mainly because he had seven different foster mothers and wouldn’t consider even one of them a mother, in what’s one of the most desolate but also funniest segments that also gives us a fascinating insight in to Toby’s backstory as well. Then we’re in the kitchen for a brief interview with a mixologist and a sampling of cocktails where Toby spills alcohol all over himself, confesses that “I ended up kissing a guy once from drinking a little too much”, and Kelsa gets the best line of the section as she asks him “Is that why your life divorced you?” only for Toby to throw a gloriously over the top tantrum with him screaming off camera “I want that bitch gone”.
The final few minutes become even dafter, which I thought might not be possible but I’m so glad it was, as “Toby On Tech” sees him accidentally screen a home video of him checking his naked backside as “It’s when I was doing my examination”, which of course makes Toby angry once again, and an angry Toby is the funniest Toby, especially as the tech guy being interviewed is completely confused by proceedings. Then there’s another shot of said arse during the weather report, and a final bit of silliness with “Toby’s Pie Pranks” which backfires rather spectacularly.
Proksch is perfect in the role of the hapless tv presenter, admirably keeping a straight face throughout the episode and staying completely in character despite being the only one who actually knows what’s really happening. It stays away from being cruel to the guests (and co-host Kelsa) by making Toby the butt of the joke nearly every time, and he’s a impressively complex character with all of his various issues and neuroses, and one I really wish we could have seen more of.
It’s easily one of the best pilots I’ve covered for the site so far, and though I’m running out of ways to say it, this definitely should have been given a full series and those who denied it deserve a right old glare, and maybe even a stare too. Co-creator Woliner revealed in an interview “If it had gone forward, we were planning to try and follow a bunch of storylines through the season while staying in the fake show/real people format and have a different co-host each week” so there was plenty of potential in the format, and this is more proof that at least some of the people responsible for choosing which tv pilots get picked up are rather annoying individuals with shitty taste in comedy.
You can watch Good Morning Tri-State on Vimeo here.