A Cinco Production?
It started out simple (somewhat).
Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim, the creative team behind what is arguably the most divisive show in Adult Swim’s history (the half-animated Tom Goes to the Mayor), discovered the joys of green screens and set out to create a little program called Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, one of the most bizarre sketch-comedy shows to ever be broadcast. The duo’s un-PC, non-sequitur humor is directly derived from David Cross & Bob Odenkirk’s classic HBO series Mr. Show, and Awesome Show wasn’t afraid to acknowledge its lineage: Odenkirk is listed as a “creative consultant” in the credits, and both he and Cross made fantastic cameos in Tim & Eric‘s excellent first season.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the show’s second outing.
Some of this can be attributed to the fact that the show’s initial novelty has faded a bit. There are only so many times that the Heidecker and Wareheim can troll out public access-quality ventriloquist/singer David Liebe Hart and still make his scenes awkwardly funny, which is perhaps why the duo have gone to great efforts to (somewhat) resolve the storylines of fallback characters like Carol and Mr. Henderson or even the astonishingly bad singing of Casey and his brother (a throughline which, actually, is resolved in the opening moments of this disc, directly tying into the finale of the first season). Some of the new characters fare quite well (like Spagett, from the ludicrous candid camera show “Spagett!”), while other Tim and Eric “classics” are well past their comedy prime (this season’s “Beaver Boys” segment completely wastes the talents of guest star Patton Oswalt—which, no matter what way you cut it, is a crime against comedy).
Though it is always a treat to see anything with guests like John C. Reilly (as professional TV medical doofus Dr. Steve Brule), Jeff Goldblum (promoting his one-man show “The Jeff Goldbluman Group”) or Tim and Eric regular Richard Dunn (a confused octogenarian whose shining moment is interviewing Dave Navarro on his low-budget rock show “Dunngeon”), the weakest link is, surprisingly, the lead actors themselves. Some of the storylines that the duo write are simply not that entertaining (the episode where Tim and Eric run competing families proves to be remarkably laugh-free, as is the extended fight sequence on the season-closer), and even some of their previous standbys (Channel 5’s “Kid Break!”) feel tired and rehashed this time out. Worst of all, the guy’s original songs—a usual high-point during any episode—occasionally come off as undercooked and conceptually rushed (hello there, “Petite Feet”).
Yet even with the second season featuring a remarkable dip in overall quality, that doesn’t mean that Tim and Eric have run out of delightfully bizarre ideas. Though some of this season’s musical segments are as inexplicable as they are hilarious (“Sit on You” is a prime example), the show’s best humor still stems from the duo’s obvious deep-seated love of television promotion. Their fake commercials are inspired (did you know that the tiny hats store Tiny Hats is now open on Sunday’s?), their use of network “ad graphics” in the middle of a show are eerily pitch-perfect (Zach Galifianakis stars in the prime-time drama show the Snuggler, about a man who is able to bring people back to life with snuggling), and the season’s best episode is, in fact, an infomercial for something called “The Innernette”, wherein you can surf the web without even going online (all by using pre-loaded sites and chat avatars that give single-word responses).
Yet, perhaps the strangest aspect of the second season of the show is how it feels as if some of the talent-free actors that are brought in for certain segments are being used without pity. Yes, James Quall is a terrible singer and impressionist (as is David Liebe Hart), but there remains the inescapable feeling that some of these people aren’t in on the joke, not knowing if they’re being laughed at or with (or even if their segments are generating laughs at all). This comes through most evidently on the thorough tour documentary Tim and Eric Awesome Tour 2008, in which Tim and Eric bring out some of their most well-known characters onstage in front of a live audience (to excellent effect), but they also bring along the likes of Hart, Quall, and Michael Q. Schmidt—the obese gentleman who is told to go out onstage and dance naked for about two minutes and do nothing else. Though it’s apparent that this cavalcade of non-stars have to be in on the joke, never once do we get any indication that they truly are (a notion that’s furthered by Heidecker’s remarkably condescending attitude towards his fans during the “Awesomecon 2008” featurette).
Though the numerous DVD features on Season Two easily outpace the painfully bad commentary that doted the Season One disc (mainly by including deleted scenes that are actually humorous), there’s still the weighing sense that some of the do-anything spirit that made the first season so charming has faded, and that the guys just might be on the verge of lapping themselves creatively. We certainly hope this isn’t the case, as the show’s best moments are nothing short of inspired (as episode wherein Eric begifts “a Robin Williams” onto Tim is as knowingly clichéd as it is brilliant). In the end, though, Tim and Eric is still a fun, entertaining program—just not as much as before.