John Lajoie built his entire career on viral videos. His channel on YouTube features some of the dumbest, most sophomoric videos that ever spread like wildfire in the early days of Facebook and YouTube—and they were hilarious. I can distinctly remember the first time I ever saw two classic sketches: Derrick Comedy’s “Bro Rape” and Lajoie’s “Show Me Your Genitals” music video. I had no idea he’d made the transition to legitimate acting in the US when he showed up on The League. As Taco, Lajoie is as sexually prolific as he is scattered in every other aspect of his life, but my favorite bit of his comedy is probably “Everyday Normal Guy,” the diametric opposite of Taco.
This is all to say that Lajoie is an inspired choice to represent the master of viral video production running a San Diego-based studio in this episode of NTSF. Paul Scheer could basically get any one of this co-stars to cross-pollenate in his domain, but Lajoie is the best fit for this world. He doesn’t get to break out of his coasting-through-life attitude on The League enough, and his commitment to positing the artfulness of viral videos while tutoring Alphonse is a nice way to embrace the simplistic nature of what goes viral but also brush off the efforts to actually craft something that will take off.
Unlike most episodes so far this season, “A Hard Drive To Swallow” gave everyone (except a notably absent June Diane Raphael, presumably absent due to commitments to other projects) something to do—even S.A.M., who gets kidnapped by an anti-robot group leader. In response, the NTSF team thinks of becoming a viral video crew—instead of the reverse Argo-esque escape plan as a film crew—but Kove quickly turns the rescue into a way to beef up her YouTube channel, which is decidedly worse than Leonard’s product reviews on Community. Abandoning the rescue mission splits the episode into S.A.M. in “Texas,” Alphonse searching for the tools to make a great viral video, and the rest of the team at Kove’s every terrible whim.
But the S.A.M. bit pays off even though the plot never comes full circle. The kidnapper claims a robot killed his wife, but through some great inserts during a parody of a touching monologue, it becomes apparent that one of those milk crate spinning silver-painted street performers was the actual culprit.
Alphonse’s journey to viral video maven has a dud final beat—the Tunnel Of Haters, which doesn’t have much other than the suggestion of hatred toward anything on the internet—but it’s such a wonderful side plot to spring from what starts as a robot in disguise infiltrating a hate group, then adds a spirited rescue mission (in theory). This is the kind of episode I want to see from NTSF, positively overflowing with ideas to the point to involve the majority of the cast, and looping together a handful of action tropes—instead of wearing one thin—while explicitly making fun of viral video popularity.
- Martin Starr’s running gag about battery life is nice: “We’re down to what we call ‘milk percentages.’”
- “You don’t believe in yourself. That is why you hashtag-fail!”
- “Did you poke holes in the box?” “Yeah I think that’s what did it.”