Yeah, you, loyal A.V Club reader,
If you're like most A.V Club readers you're probably worried that The A.V Club isn't introducing new features fast enough. Sure, we have seventy-three or so recurring features we trot out on a regular basis in our ongoing effort to overwhelm readers with new content. But we haven't introduced a new feature in a good three or four hours.
That's why we've created a brand spanking new feature called "Ephemereview" that will chronicle some of the most useless pop-culture detritus known to man. "Ephemereview" will fearlessly explore all sorts of stupid, stupid shit that really does not merit being covered in any other context. Or at all. Needless to say, your suggestions are more than welcome. For the very first installment I'm going to write about Dane Cook: The Lost Pilots, two failed pilots everybody's favorite comedian filmed shortly before he became dispiritingly ubiquitous.
Pilots are like fetuses: they're more interesting for what they might someday become–real, live programs you can watch on your TV screen–than for what they are. In that respect unsold pilots are like stillborn fetuses. Boy oh boy, does Sony have a pair of sweet, sweet stillborn comedy fetuses for you to check out. They're a pair of pilots Cook filmed in 2005, both imaginatively titled Cooked.
In the first, Cook plays a zany aspiring stand-up comedian whose girlfriend of two years wants to move in with him, thereby ruining his plans to have a swinging bachelor pad. Having just scored a sweet gig as the wacky neighbor on a sitcom pilot–a plot point that's so very meta it's like double-triple-post-modern-in-reverse–Cook can't be boxed in by no live-in love. Alas, Cook's big-brother/manager–who subtly establishes his dual relationship with Cook via the not-at-all awkward or stilted line "Look Dangel, I might be your big brother but I'm also your manager"–has some bad news. He lost the part–to a dog!
A humbled Cook is then forced to move in with his big brother–who, it should be noted, is also his manager–and his big brother's ball-busting wife (Jason Bateman's Sister). Jason Bateman's sister is not about to tolerate Cook's tomfoolery or his shenanigans. Or even his antics. As if that weren't embarrassing/hilarious enough, Cook is similarly forced to return to his old job at an insurance company, where he quickly chafes under the Draconian rule of new boss (the little person from Bad Santa).
In a sadly characteristic bit of dialogue, the little person from Bad Santa responds to Cook's desperate plea that as a born entertainer what he does is make people laugh with a dour "What you do is work for me. And from now on I want more attention and less attenfun!" Aw, Snap. The man won't let our boy the Cookster have no kind of fun! But he's gotta express himself so he climbs up on top of a desk at work and treats his co-workers to some of his hilarious stand-up comedy. It's possible that the creators of Cooked could have found a more awkward way to plug his stand-up routines into the show but it certainly would have taken some doing.
By the end of the pilot, Cook has learned a little something about growing up and accepting responsibility and all the fuddy duddies and stuffed shirts have learned a little something about loosening up and having fun, Dane Cook style. I, meanwhile, learned that as painful as it is to watch Cook do the leading-man thing in Good Luck Chuck and Employee of the Month it's even more agonizing watching Cook's hacky shtick artlessly plugged into sitcom formula. Both of these pilots were shot on film without a laugh track (you know, like in sitcoms that don't completely suck!) but that does nothing to hide that this embodies everything that's moribund and hopeless about the conventional three-camera sitcom. This might be the only time I ever found myself missing the noxious braying and mindless delirium of the typical laugh track.
In the second pilot, Cook plays what the DVD box calls "a charismatic guy who's always looking forward to his next life experience." Thank God Sony has indicated to consumers that Cook's character is, in fact, a charismatic, experience-loving dude or I would have mistaken him for an abrasive tool.
In Cooked 2.0 Cook plays a zany funster who pals around with good girl Liz Vassey and wisecracking slacker Joel David Moore. In order to secure a fighter monkey Cook pretends that Vassey is the head of an animal rights organization and tricks her disapproving father (Sam McMurray) into giving him an electric chair he can then swap for the aforementioned monkey. Complications ensue, some of which involve our intrepid hero trying to keep an animal-loving sexual conquest from realizing there is a sword-wielding primate mere feet from where they are copulating wildly.
If I may damn this second pilot with the faintest of praise it is substantially better than its predecessor–perhaps due to the presence of former Simpsons staffer Jay Kogen as writer–but it's still pretty fucking dire. Instead of proving the viability of Cook as a television star it only ends up reinforcing the truth of what I like to call the Monkey/Dragon paradox–that monkeys are awesome and dragons are awesome but shows and movies about monkeys and dragons are invariably about as far from awesome as you can possibly get.
Well, that does it for the first installment of Ephemereview. What other tacky, useless shit would you like us (and by "us" I probably mean "me") to cover in this feature? Also have any of you heard of this Dane Cook guy? He's a real charmer. I can see people, especially the young people of today with their baggy pants and their hippety hop slang and newfangled camera-phones, going for him in a big way.