Is it just me, or is NTSF getting steadily better as it goes along? There isn’t quite the depth of soap opera mythology that gets parodied over on Childrens Hospital, but there has rarely been a moment over these first two episodes that didn’t have me laughing. Even the lowest common denominator humor—Rob Riggle yelling “No titties?” twice in disbelief that he’d been duped into meeting with a British speech therapist or kicking cyborg Ed Helms in the crotch—made me laugh during “Hawaii Die-0.” These quarter hour shows work within tight confines, where the only plot comes through in expository statements, which allows NTSF to get right to the jokes.
Tonight’s episode manages to work in three different arcs. The first involves brainwashed agents. Paul Scheer finally gets to drop the super-serious act in favor of a hyper-relaxed one, so chilled out from training killer dolphins that he adopts an island attitude. He listens to soothing music, carries around a surfboard, and has so little stress that Kove presumes he’s been brainwashed to assassinate the President Of The Navy. This change is so shocking to the rest of the agency that Alphonse’s trip to the caves of Yemen—where he’s actually been reprogrammed for assassination—goes entirely undetected. Scheer gleefully indulges in Trent’s sabbatical feeling, for once not required to play the hard ass spewing action clichés. Alphonse, a week removed from playing the voice of reason when Kove wanted to blow up a plane, gets to let loose as a monotone, highly suspicious shell of an NTSF agent.
That robotic attitude leads to the B-plot. Not many guest characters on NTSF return, simply because most of them end up dead or arrested, but Ed Helms returns as a cyborg designed for defense. Daisy introduces him as a robot with absolutely no feelings, but Helms’ emotions at seeing his wife and son—who believe him to be dead, thanks to Daisy—and obvious pained screaming creates an incredibly funny twist on Robocop. Daisy’s insensitive revelry, which spreads to Kove and the POTN watching as Helms pleads for help, taps into the dehumanizing way NTSF recycles employees, and the parallel to cold, unfeeling robots works thanks to Helms’ comically pitiful performance. His increasing frustration as the computer parts of his body patronized his still-functioning senses made for entertaining situational irony.
But the first two plots wouldn’t happen without Rob Riggle, hopelessly unable to excise excessive profanity from his commencement speech at the University Of Southern San Diego. He need to be rehabilitated, and thus an abbreviated King’s Speech arc commences, as Riggle attempts to use a puppet to curb his swearing, a la The Beaver, but to no avail. He still swears like, well, a sailor when he gets to the stage, but it’s a funnier scene because of that, as NTSF takes Trent into custody, Sam realizes they’ve got the wrong man, and Trent’s relaxing musical response to the mix-up calms down the POTN enough that he gives some rote advice.
Brainwashing, Robocop, and The King’s Speech, with a dash of The Beaver makes for a quick and efficient episode. “Hawaii Die-0” keeps the season rolling with a rare featured performance for the POTN. Normally, Riggle just gets to jut in for a moment or two as the hypothetical commander of this fictional strike force, but he’s a comedic force to be reckoned with, physically imposing but able to deliver deft profanity. If this is the standard for NTSF’s third season, then any character that gets a turn in the spotlight will get their featured laughs, even if the show scrolls through a rolodex of action/espionage clichés instead of building a larger mythology within the story.
- At one point, the episode was titled “The POTN’s Speech,” but considering the speech therapy is a very loose play on that Oscar-winning film in comparison to the Trent/Alphonse plot or the Robocop side plot, it made sense to retitle it.
- It’s obligatory to mention every Ghostbusters reference, right? “Tonight’s episode of NTSF ain’t afraid of no ghosts, which grammatically means we aren’t afraid of people.”
- One of the funniest scripts I read in college was by a friend of mine who decided to adapt Robocop as a stage play all about the swirling demise and corruption of OCP, the mega-corporation behind the conspiracy to destroy Detroit.
- A hot wing-eating/wet t-shirt contest at Travis Barker School Of Music. Just let that sink in. The screener had the building named for Nick Cannon, but in broadcast apparently they avoided confusion with the Underwater Ultramax Prison. Either way, the way this show names fake buildings is great.