Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell debuts tonight on adult swim at midnight Eastern.
Most of the shows on Adult Swim can be graphed according to how high one has to be in order to find them funny. On one end, The Boondocks and The Venture Brothers are genuinely funny and frequently poignant without chemical enhancements. At the other end, Aqua Teen Something You Know Whatever is rarely amusing unless you’re really, really stoned or easily transfixed by the absurd. Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell—a new series from Dave Willis (co-creator of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies as well as the voice of Archer’s Barry Dylan) and frequent Adult Swim writer Casper Kelly—is stuck somewhat uncomfortably in the middle.
Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell is a more or less standard workplace comedy, except that (gasp!) the office is Hell. Henry Zebrowski (previously seen as Adam’s theater buddy on Girls) stars as shlubby protagonist Gary, a lower-level demon trying to climb the corporate ladder by tempting souls into eternal damnation while occasionally popping up to his old apartment on Earth to steal beer. Gary is assisted by his deviously competent, brownnosing, backstabbing intern Claude (Craig Rowin) and constantly shit on (literally as well as figuratively) by his boss, Satan (Matt Servitto, best known as The Sopranos’ Agent Harris). Zebrowski is fine as the gross but sympathetic oaf who has to pretend to “test” Claude on basic demon procedure, Rowin effectively turns on a dime from scared new guy to conniving, sniveling suck-up, and Servitto may not be Al Pacino but he’s a lot of fun playing the Devil as a perpetually grumpy, no-nonsense Ari Gold type. There are a few supporting characters who don’t make much of an impression in 11 minutes, but the best and most well known is comedian/force of nature Eddie Pepitone playing himself as one of Gary’s tortured souls. Pepitone spends his screen time constantly and uproariously screaming his head off in the background, whether he’s being whipped or trying in vain to get a bag of chips out of a vending machine.
The vast majority of the show’s jokes follow straightforwardly from its “Office Space in Hell” premise: Gary and the other employee demons wear yellow polo shirts with a stylized Hell logo, every day on the calendar is Monday, and a “smoke break” involves a Sisyphean climb to the top of a cliff for an unreachable pack of cigarettes. Likewise, each episode’s plot looks like it will be a straightforward take on an office comedy chestnut… but in Hell. Tonight’s première sees Claude and Gary trying to enact a new marketing strategy by getting baseball player/client Cortez Cruz (Alexis DeLaRosa) to kiss a pentagram instead of a crucifix after each homer, while in the fourth (the only other installment screened for critics) Gary loses his “summon word,” which allows mortals to drag him up from Hell, to a pair of stoners. These stories are good for a few laughs during the midnight time slot, but they’re also highly predictable.
Considering that Gary and Claude’s job entails tricking people into signing their souls away to Hell for etern, Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell has some room to go even darker than the already inherent horror of the cubicle-filled wastelands from which it seems to draw most of its inspiration. The show only occasionally embraces this darkness in the deeply unsettling way some Adult Swim shows like Moral Orel have, most notably in a fourth-episode twist that involves Gary’s mother.
Look, overanalyzing an 11-minute show on a network that brought you this might be a little silly. But there are shows of the same length on both Cartoon Network (Adventure Time, Regular Show) and Adult Swim proper (Childrens Hospital, Metalocalypse) that manage to fully commit to whatever nutso ideas they’re using that episode in ways that are worth talking about on a weekly basis. While Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell certainly has the potential to follow its premise to some interesting if also potentially horrifying places, the office humor is just too broad to be mesmerizing, for either the sober or stoned Adult Swim crowds. Willis and Kelly are obviously still adjusting to the pressures of working in live action rather than animation, so Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell isn’t quite up to the level of Adult Swim’s last Hell-centric series, the Loren Bouchard-created Lucy: The Daughter Of The Devil. Hopefully the show won’t need eternity to figure itself out.