Originally conceived as a tv pilot, then expanded to movie length, before being sliced in to ten separate parts, Cody Heller’s Dummy is a pretty unique Quibi series in that it’s actually bloody great, and that makes it along with Reno 911 the only thing so far worth watching on the service. Based on her relationship with Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon (portrayed here by Terriers’ star Donal Logue) it takes on a fantastical bent when it’s revealed that Dan has a sex doll called Barbara (voiced by Meredith Hagner) who starts chatting away to Cody (Anna Kendrick).
What follows is a sort of Odd Couple buddy movie as Cody’s pretty sure that the doll isn’t sentient, and that she’s having some kind of psychological breakdown, yet still indulges her various whims. She’s quite self aware though and so does the sensible thing and visits a very supportive therapist who suggests that Cody needs help healing herself and that Barbara can do that, and so she decides to keep on hanging out with the doll, especially as though sometimes mean and cruel the two come up with the idea to write a script based on these events.
Quibi is almost destined to fail unless some miracle takes place and people start signing up in their millions, it’s been mocked from the get go and the poor reaction to it has been a source of glee for many a website. So Dummy will probably be re-edited as a film and end up on another network / streaming service at some point and that’s probably for the best as it really does work best as a movie, especially as the way some of the episode’s end is pretty jarring.
However you choose to watch it, it’s an impressive creation that should make you laugh hard, and very often too. Though initially a lot of the jokes come from just how foul mouthed Barbara is, and the first episode is largely “What if a sex doll could talk?, it quickly becomes a lot more fascinating as it explores #MeToo, including briefly touching on Harmon’s own “Crossing of romantic boundaries in the workplace”, and there’s a superb running joke regarding Cody’s agents constantly being replaced which has a fantastic pay off.
The way women are treated in Hollywood in general is something Dummy explores in great depth too, with Cody’s douchebag new agent suggesting at one point that due to the current climate “You’re a female writer, it doesn’t have to be that good”, and the way Cody is dealt with is sharply contrasted to the manner where Dan Harmon is worshipped like a God by pretty much everyone she meets. It’s actually a mostly flattering portrayal of the man (and could have been far, far worse if you’ve read anything about him), choosing to lightly mock rather than tear him apart, but he’s definitely seen as someone who can do no wrong, even though he clearly has done at times in the past.
Along with the satire of the tv industry, the relationship between Barbara and Cody makes up for a large part of the piece, with one episode revolving around them suddenly becoming aware that all they talk about is men, and then attempting to pass the Bechdel test. They manage it eventually but only by talking “shit about other women”, which they recognise is fucked up but at least technically passes the test, all of which is handled thoughtfully so that it’s not only very funny but also insightful too.
Despite being an extremely intelligent, intriguing exploration of the entertainment industry, feminism and mental health, it is a show which is more than happy to be just quite daft on occasion too, which it benefits from as a whole as this way it doesn’t feel like it’s here just to preach about the insanity of the tv world and how women are regarded. So at one point you’ll hear a homeless guy ask “Do you know how many dolphins die each year from choking on used sex dolls?”, Cody scream at a 14 year old “Will you please just fuck my sex doll”, while so much of Barbara’s dialogue is gloriously hilarious that I’d be here all day listing the bits which made me laugh.
Though I would love a second season / film if only because I’m so fond of the characters there’s no real need for such a thing, the film does everything it sets out to do and impressively there isn’t an ounce of fat in the whole thing. The performances are routinely superb, the jokes come thick and fast, and it’s so good that it’s worth subscribing to Quibi for, or at the very least getting the free trial, watching it all one evening, and then cancelling before you pay anything.