Before the second season of NTSF began, Adult Swim made the premiere episode and “Wasilla Hills Cop” available, and like a fool, I presumed it would be the second episode aired. Instead, it bounced around the schedule, eventually ending up as the season finale. But it makes good sense as a finale, since it sees Alphonse quit his position with NTSF in order to return to his home in Alaska to investigate the death of his former partner Buster, an Alaskan Malamute (that was way too big to be a husky, but I’m just guessing) with whom he shared a telepathic connection, you know, like all Alaskans have with their pets. That location shift had that finale feeling, and even if the episode didn't feature the whole cast equally, it at least gave Alphonse some time to shine so that every member of the main cast took the spotlight at least once.
Trent, Jessie, and Piper all quit too, less to accompany Alphonse on his personal vendetta and more to “take a pass” on a really difficult case about the New Zealand mafia. In the NTSF version of our largest state, Alphonse is the Prince of Alaska, son of Alonzo, head of NTSF:AK:CANOE::, who disowned his son for saving him from drowning in a ice hole. Downtown Alaska is the middle of the woods, salmon is a “mind control fish” that takes over people’s minds if they eat too much of it, and bear traps are potholes.
Normally, I’m pretty sensitive about the depictions of cultures as an “other” purely for laughs, but there are a few key reasons this worked for me. There wasn’t any dialect or chanting, nothing in the speech that would have bordered on offensive. And since Brandon Johnson and Steven Williams aren’t Native American or Inuit, it wasn’t as though the show was trying to depict the culture as based on any actual population. The perspective of the show is just that Alaska is so far away and so different from San Diego that it might as well be a completely ridiculous fictional culture where their NTSF agents forbid the use modern technology. That usage made the material work, especially Alzono’s anger that his son would dishonor him by saving his life by using a cell phone. If anything, it was refreshing to see that NTSF didn’t go the Sarah Palin route with the jaunt to Alaska, and instead crafted its own alternate reality Alaska that fit into the surreal nature of the show.
Sam gets left behind at the NTSF HQ to pick up the pieces and interview new candidates to take the places of everyone who quits. Aubrey Plaza is typically droll as “The Rememberer,” a nod to the unfortunate CBS procedural Unforgettable, Jay Johnston interacts with print letters that float up from the newspaper only to settle back into place, and Ray Liotta shows up to play the mailroom guy who wants a promotion to the front lines. The other comic rule of three gag has Alphonse investigating a chemical plant, and each time he’s caught by the security guard, faking a different character. The guest stars work better than Alphonse’s voices, but it all leads to a nice joke where Sam warns Alphonse that his father is the mastermind behind a plot to separate Alaska from the rest of the continent then introduces himself to Alonzo without realizing who he is.
This season of NTSF:SD:SUV:: has shown off a lot of high-profile guest stars dipping in for brief cameos and some wonderful one-liners, but the show amped up its ambition and gave everyone in the cast at least one episode to shine. Unlike Childrens Hospital, NTSF doesn’t really build any kind of interlocking mythology right now, it just provides little glimpses into the past for each character in a reliably funny way. Trent’s father was in prison, Piper’s ex-lover was basically Bill from Kill Bill, and Sam’s girlfriend was crazy. The ensemble became more important than Paul Scheer’s performance as a 24 or CSI stand-in, and this season was a big step up because of that shift.
Season Grade: B+
- Top 3 favorite episodes of the season: “Comic-Con-Flict” because of Jason Mantzoukas and Paul Scheer’s Q&A, “The Real Bicycle Thief” for Alan Tudyk’s hilariously bad accent, and “Sabbath-tage” because… Alison Brie.
- The mere idea of NTSF:AK:CANOE:: still made me laugh even after seeing the episode over three months ago. It would’ve been really interesting to see the two work on a case together.
- Speaking of Unforgettable, shouldn’t a grown-up Cam Jansen series work? Oh wait, Veronica Mars.
- “Tonight’s episode of NTSF:SD:SUV:: is not a prequel to Shrek.”
- “I gotta go melt an igloo, so order us another round.”
- “Coming this Flag Day to Adult Swim… Futterman!”
- Thanks for reading this season; hope to see you all back next year for season three, when the show is paired up with Childrens Hospital again.