Regular Show: “Saving Time”
B+

Regular Show: “Saving Time”

At first glance, tonight’s Regular Show episode could not be more perfectly timed. After all, “Saving Time” is an episode all about Daylight Saving Time that airs the day after the clocks jumped ahead. But, in reality, this episode is at least four months out of date. “Saving Time” is about the wrong Daylight Saving Time. Mordecai and Rigby do not face the exquisite torture of the dreaded 23-hour day that signals the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, but rather the particular ecstasy of the 25-hour day that marks its conclusion. Perhaps it’s just more dramatically compelling to build a story around the presence of an extra hour rather than around its absence; indeed, the only other Daylight Saving Time-themed TV episode I can think of, the great Adventures Of Pete And Pete episode “Time Tunnel,” is also about the 25-hour day.

Now, I could imagine a Regular Show episode set around the 23-hour day, a story in which Mordecai and Rigby’s decision to stay up late drinking soda somehow leaves them trapped in the phantom non-hour from 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM. Such a story, however, would likely just run on its own absurdity, whereas tonight’s episode is able to dig into something that works on a more nuanced, character-based level. I would say that “Saving Time” takes a more grounded approach to the story of Daylight Saving Time, but “grounded” is precisely the wrong word to use when the climax involves the entire park flying out to sea.

If “Saving Time” taps into any specific theme about Daylight Saving Time, it’s that the whole thing is just sort of confusing and dumb. Those adjectives are the perfect descriptors for Mordecai and Rigby’s plan to prank their coworkers into thinking it’s a different time from what it actually is. There’s a certain stupid genius behind their arguments that it doesn’t matter if the entire world is on the same time, even if they are coming to this debate about 174 years too late. Rigby in particular makes an attempt to frame their mischief as a philosophical illustration that time is an abstract concept, a construct only given meaning by a human consensus that has no real connection to any deeper truth; at least, I imagine he would have made all those points if the park hadn’t chosen that moment to correct its location to match its new time zone.

But really, this episode represents Mordecai and Rigby at their most unabashedly idiotic, as they break out their dumbass guffawing as the de facto chorus for their clock-winding song. The actual planning of their prank suggests two young men who could really benefit from an early night or two. Their ideal payoff, in which they go up to Benson the next day and point out that the clocks were wrong this whole time, is such a wonderfully lame goal. They flatter themselves by asking whether they are bad enough dudes to break into Benson’s bedroom and change his clock’s time while he sleeps, but the more telling detail is that they decide to put on their own burglary-appropriate hats for their nighttime antics. At no point do Mordecai and Rigby appear to grasp what they are up to in any sort of big-picture sense; throughout, their critical thinking doesn’t extend much beyond devising a bunch of underwhelming, time-related puns.

The pair’s willful stupidity makes it easier to buy into what has to be one of the most preposterous scenarios in Regular Show history. The series tends to be vague about its precise setting, a fact that gives it some leeway to elide real-world items that would interfere with an episode’s plotting. In the case of “Saving Time,” the story only works at all because none of the park employees apparently own a cell phone or a computer, either of which would automatically update to Daylight Saving Time. For that matter, the episode relies on the implicit assumption that every other employee except for Benson lives on the park grounds; that’s true of Muscle Man, Skips, and apparently Pops, but I didn’t think that either Hi-Five Ghost or especially Thomas lives in a place where Mordecai and Rigby would be able to reach and tamper with the clocks.

It’s not that any of this actually matters—Regular Show episodes really aren’t meant to be judged on their logical consistency—but the whole premise is so transparently dumb that the episode needs to create just the right narrative context for these elements to work. “Saving Time” recognizes how absurd it is that none of the park employees would see a single clock that would inform them they are two hours off the correct schedule, so the episode comes up with the three silliest possible ways for the team to work out the truth. The early arrival of the songbirds and the analysis of the untimely heat read like ways that people in ancient civilizations would divine the time of day, while the mistimed garbage pickup allows for the delightfully silly failure of small talk between the two garbage men. Mordecai and Rigby’s stupidity essentially proves infectious, and that extends to the animation as well. The sequence in which Mordecai and Rigby sing about resetting the clocks has them sliding from room to room, divorcing them from any particularly reality. Even their faces look slightly fatter throughout much of the episode; this may just be down to the vagaries of multiple animation teams working on the same show, but their faces consistently look slightly stupider than they do normally, which only helps the general tone of the episode.

And then, when at last it’s time to get serious, Regular Show turns to its longstanding secret weapon: Skips. Mark Hamill’s gruff delivery can sell any concept, no matter how mystical or how unutterably ludicrous it might be. Skips treats the threat of the time zone shift with deadly seriousness, and that’s really all the episode needs to shift from intentionally dumb comedy to big action sequence. The destruction of so much of the park could perhaps be treated as a more momentous event; admittedly, the park has seen its fair share of carnage, but it’s still rare for everyone’s homes to be quite so completely devastated as they are here. But even if this wave of destruction will all be reset in time for next week, tonight’s action is plenty dramatic on its own terms. “Saving Time” finds little action beats for all of the characters, as they split up into teams to track down all the incorrect clocks. Here again, Regular Show mixes in the ridiculous. After all, it doesn’t matter how much destruction our heroes have to dodge: They’re still just trying to change the time on a bunch of clocks. As action sequence endpoints go, that’s one of the absolute silliest possibilities I can imagine. But then, how better to pay homage to the timekeeping ridiculousness that is Daylight Saving Time?

Stray observations:

  • Okay, I realize I could say this at the end of every other episode, but Mordecai and Rigby really should have been fired at the end of this one. Rigby’s decision to launch into a refrain of the song ought to have sealed the deal.
  • We got a terrifying, revealing glimpse into the dark heart of Benson with his childhood photo and his half-asleep mutterings. I leave you to speculate on the deeper meanings of it all, because I’m frankly scared of what we might uncover.
  • Speaking of things we probably don’t want to know, I can only imagine what precisely Mordecai and Rigby were talking about in that initial conversation about Muscle Man. All we know is, Mitch Sorenstein is one lucky guy.

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