Bob and David: reunited and it feels so good
I was lucky enough to attend the pilot taping of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross' new HBO sitcom on Friday evening, and I'm pleased to report to you, legions of Mr. Show enthusiasts, that it was damn funny and entertaining.
I'll try not to spoil every plot point and surprise here, but I'll surely spoil some, so if you want to remain completely spoiler-free, you should probably, umm, turn off every piece of electronic equipment you own, just to be safe. On the other hand, there's a chance you might never see the pilot of David's Situation, unless HBO–based on this pilot–decides to order some episodes. So I'll say this now, and then maybe again later: Hey HBO, order a season of David's Situation. And this is coming from a guy who still sorta likes Entourage, HBO, so you can trust me a little. Also, I'm a subscriber! I'm your boss!
Anyway, the experience: The studio audience, numbering maybe 300 and including lots of Mr. Show-level celebs like Janeane Garafolo, Tim and Eric of Awesome Show, a couple of Human Giant fellas, and some Mr. Show alums, seemed primed from the get-go to love David's Situation. The last time Odenkirk and Cross worked this closely was on Mr. Show and Run Ronnie Run–though they've appeared on Tim And Eric together–so stakes was high, as De La say. This show also comes after a few fallow years for each, with Odenkirk directing the strange, critically reviled Let's Go To Prison and Cross taking shit from comment boarders for paying the bills with bit parts in Hollywood movies. (Seriously people, you would take a part in Alvin & The Chipmunks for a bucket of hot wings and ten dollars–don't begrudge a guy whose comedy you claim to love some work. And don't forget all that awesome stand-up he did after Mr. Show, either.)
Anyway, Odenkirk is the director of David's Situation, and he introduced the show to the studio audience as not exactly a sitcom, but what a sitcom might look like if he and David decided to make one. (From their website: "It's not a parody of a sitcom. It's a sitcom. But the kind we would make if we were allowed to. David plays David Cross, he shares a shitty cookie-cutter house in a development somewhere in middle America with two other guys. Crazy shit happens. It's inspired by The Goodies, The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, Mr. Show, South Park, Sarah Silverman Program, All In The Family, and on and on. Pretty much everything except MASH.) Not to get sappy, but there was pretty palpable positive energy coming both from Odenkirk and the audience. After a few minutes of warm-up by comedian Mark Cohen (and a sound system playing what must've been Cross' iPod), Odenkirk introduced Cross, who came out and began to deliver a monologue out in front of the set. (The set, they claimed, was from Everybody Loves Raymond.) At first it seemed like Cross was just warming up the crowd, but it turned out his stand-up bit was actually the show's beginning, and he used it to explain the premise. (He'd go on to break the fourth wall several times in the show, too.)
And here's the premise, a genius mixture of actual sitcom signifiers and the desire to wag fingers at actual sitcom signifiers: David Cross, after falling too hard for the trappings of Hollywood but finding no real meaning, has quit show business. He now shares a house with two wacky roommates–an idiot uber-liberal (Upright Citizens Brigade's Matt Besser) and a gruff uber-conservative (played by Eric Hoffman with an assist from a wardrobe department with a keen eye). Also in the mix: a hottie neighbor and her precocious, Hollywood-haircut-sporting son, Little David. (Yes, that would make Cross "Big David.") Except for Cross, who's always best at playing himself, the characters occupy a weird sitcom world: They're no less believable or ridiculously broad than on most sitcoms, but with Cross as the voice of reality (as it were), they work. Pick up Besser's hippie (he loves "morning hugs") and plop him into Two And A Half Men and you'd want to murder him, but here he makes sense.
So after establishing the main troupe, it's on to the plot, which took pointed, funny shots at fairly easy targets–To Catch A Predator and fleeting Internet fame–but brought exactly the sort of slight sophistication to them to steer far, far clear of MadTV territory while never seeming schoolmarmish. (Those who like Cross' stand-up, but only to a point, should be just fine.) A pair of terrific guest stars show up to liven up the house and the plot, too: Mr. Show's John Ennis and indomitably weird spirit Zach Galifianakis, one of those rare performers who doesn't act funny, he just is funny. When Zach is mistaken for a child predator, hilarity ensues. I don't want to spoil any more, but I'll add that one of the funniest moments is also the most meta: After Hoffman delivered a catch phrase ("I do. Your boner!"), Odenkirk passed some "I do. Your boner!" shirts out to audience members, then told them to give him reactions as if they'd been waiting for the line. Pretty awesome.
On the nuts-and-bolts end of things: They shot each scene twice, at a total of about two hours, occasionally picking up a quick take of a botched scene. The set was at CBS Studios in Studio City, CA–apparently on the same sound stage that the ridiculous soap opera Passions uses (or used, I'm not sure–either way, good energy to share). At the end, they shot a round table discussion with the cast and Odenkirk–and special guest Andy Dick, who also made a brief, pre-taped cameo. I'm not entirely sure what the round table was for–it didn't seem scripted, but it was filmed–maybe the eventual David's Situation complete first-season DVD. C'mon HBO, you greenlit Lucky Louie for a whole season. Do it.