‘W/ Bob and David’ Recaptures the ‘Mr. Show’ Magic Beautifully (TV Review)

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Netflix has a habit of making television history. With the release of the new Arrested Development season in 2013 there was an established sense that suddenly things were changing; what was once sacrificed to the Ratings Gods for fear of executive wrath was suddenly springing forth from the ether. Pop culture legends could now burst onto the scene as new favorites. Since then, madness has over taken the world, and in that chaos many of our childhood/early TV lessons have returned with substantial gifts. However, none of them mattered, until now. With Bob and David, the loose spin-off from HBO’s Mr. Show premiered this Friday the 13th, and it’s been glorious.

The intro credits alone are worth watching over and over. Imagine being in an anti-drug seminar as a teen, and then immediately dropping acid while McGruff or Smokey warn of the dangers of drugs. It’s a mind rush playing to a crowd who either followed Mr. Show through its initial airing, or were introduced to it by a caring friend. The sketch comedy show initially had a small, but cult following. Due to its placement on the cable giant it failed to reach the laymen who didn’t have access. However, because of the amount of comedians that got their start through Mr. Show, and its raucous content, it’s continued to amass a following throughout the years, culminating in the resurrection of the dream. While HBO still owned the original content and name, the soul behind Mr. Show was up for the taking. With Bob and David is no Mr. Show. However, it’s just as good as, if not better than that original idea.

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The Netflix released sketch show keeps the original depth Mr. Show previously exhibited. Each sketch weaves in with the last; at times there’s even an overriding joke that acts as a glue holding the whole episode together. There’s an impressive eye on each bit. Nothing feels like a throw away (we only get a few episodes after-all), and each joke is carefully thought out and finished in a way that’s satisfying to not only the audience but the comedian as well. The set up with new characters and pop culture moments is brilliant and non-intrusive. Rather than worry about staying current, the cast and crew are able to comment on moments in time to create their own pop culture subsect dedicated to pure comedy. There’s no one they’re looking to impress, no one they’re worried about offending, they are just who they are, and it’s perfect.

There’s a sheer vastness in the talent they’ve added to the new show. Between well-known comedians like Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele, Reno 911), pop culture icons like Stephanie Courtney (Flo the Progressive Insurance gal), and lesser known up and comers, it’s hard not to get excited about the four episode run. David Cross and Bob Odenkirk are in fine form, the chemistry between them having grown over the years as they’ve stretched their acting legs. From a nostalgic point of view, everything’s funny. There’s a moment in the second episode where Brian Posehn wears an angel costume in a dry cleaners store front, wings covered in an undefined brown sticky substance, and he explains he’s a left over throw away link from a cut sketch. It’s so stupid that it works, and has absolutely nothing to do with what happens next.

The sketch unfolds, or rather, snowballs into a whole bit dedicated to writing a Broadway musical about rooms, in house, it’s content imagined up by the dry cleaner manager, it’s owner, and a disgruntled customer. If it sounds ridiculous, it’s because it absolutely is. The whole thing culminates into a tie-in to all of the previous jokes, along with the resolution to an earlier posed bit. Rather than look to a resolution, they instead keep the joke going all the way to the credits.

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There’s a very clear homage to series that have since spawned from the original show, most noteably in the form of Tim & Eric-esque comedy. Look for a scene with Cross flying through the air in character from an earlier bit to end out an episode; it has a very Tim Heidecker feel to it, which isn’t surprising considering both Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are producers for With Bob & David.

It was hard not to rush through the episodes, each one only about thirty minutes long. The only disappointment you’ll face will come in the form of the lack of more new episodes. The light at the end of the tunnel is the hour long “making of” episode that feels like sheer magic. It’s like being a kid and watching your divorced parents not only get back together, but become really funny and intriguing in the process. Since fairy tales aren’t real, the making of episode is a perfect fill in for your incomplete broken home heart.

What’s really the best part of turning on Netflix for the first time when you see those sparkling little aged faces bouncing on screen is the words “Season One, Episode One”. This ladies and gentleman means there’s hope; hope for more of Bob & David, hope for a better future, and hope for shows like this that were cut in their prime. What can we expect from Netflix next? Most likely at least another season of this well-executed sketch series, definitely another season of Arrested Development, and perhaps a home for the almost funded MST3K revival?

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