NTSF:SD:SUV:: is at its best when it’s overloading every episode with action clichés in different scenarios. Kicking off its third season with a Con Air parody packed with standout guest stars—Summer Glau, Joe Lo Truglio, Matt Jones— is just the way to start the season on a high note. Guest casting on quarter-hour shows is a huge boon to Childrens Hospital and NTSF. They only need the actors for about a day, so it doesn’t take much to fit it into a schedule. That’s how shows like this can get such amazing people to show up in bit parts with only a couple lines.
When I read the title, I was skeptical that “Comic-Con Air” would be a retread of the convention-themed “Comic-Con-Flict” from last season, but this is a more direct parody of Con Air, overlapping with nerd culture humor to form a wonderful Venn diagram of reference points. The opening is the standard prisoner introduction, cataloguing all the dangerous criminals arrested at Comic-Con on the flight. Glau is a fake nerd conning people out of collectibles, Jones cheats at Magic: The Gathering, and Lo Truglio spoils movies that haven’t even been filmed yet, such is his evil genius. Once in the air, the episode hits prison break, air travel, and comic book nerd clichés in quick succession, moving from one inspiration to the next.
One minute a Green Arrow/Hulk fanboy argument distracts Trent long enough for Lo Truglio (and Glau and Jones) to break out of their cuffs. The next Horatio Sanz and Natashy Lyonne argue over his cheapskate plan to get a deal on airline tickets for a flight full of convicts. June Diane Raphael’s Piper pops sleeping pills to knock herself out for a flight from San Diego to San Jose. Abigail Spencer’s flight attendant grows emotionally close to Trent after only knowing him for a matter of minutes.
The episode is practically halfway over before it even shows the NTSF headquarters, where Alphonse defends the “Blow Plane Up” button (“Why did we have this thing installed so prominently?”) from an office full of people who want to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of hitting that button. It’s an extreme twist of the action cliché of shooting down the heroes in order to prevent a larger escape fiasco.
Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan makes the brief office scenes better, replacing Rebecca Romijn (at least in the two episodes Adult Swim made available) as Daisy, and she fits right into the zany antics of the NTSF office, wanting to be the one to press the button as well. She only gets a few lines, but hey, Amy Pond is adorable and so is that accent. Hopefully she gets some actual character traits like Jessie did last season.
But the in-flight takeover is short-lived. Trent is immune to the Comic-Con charms, since his only pop culture reference is Lassie, and he’s “not sure if it’s a dog or a horse.” And though Glau manages to distract him, Spencer shows up to defeat her since she “hates fake nerds.” Episodes like this jump between references at a furious pace, but that’s all the better since it packs a movie’s worth of parody jokes into 12 minutes and actually gets the laughs. Scheer and the rest of the cast look comfortable riding out any sort of action cliché, and if even half the amount of guest stars from this episode continue showing up throughout the season, this will be a strong and diverting quarter-hour for the rest of the summer.
- Kate Mulgrew still has Orange Is The New Black hair this season. All the more reason to plug that show again!
- Nice play on the obvious Chasing Mavericks plug with Abigail Spencer and June Diane Raphael.
- “In tonight’s episode of NTSF:SD:SUV::, a Tony award-winning actor will be killed. Not just in the show. In real life.”
- “You will be in a crypt…tonight!”