Since 2007, TV Club has dissected television episode by episode. Beginning this September, The A.V. Club will also step back to take a wider view in our new TV Reviews section. With pre-air reviews of new shows, returning favorites, and noteworthy finales, TV Reviews doesn’t replace TV Club—as usual, some shows will get the weekly treatment—but it adds a look at a bigger picture.
The Eric Andre Show is a testament to television’s gaping maw, an act of creation driven by destruction. The show typically begins with Eric André rushing onto his set and tearing it apart. He tackles the drummer and they fall through the backdrop, he pile-drives his desk, and he stomps around in his birthday suit kicking whatever remains. Stagehands replace the furniture as he goes, and the band plays on regardless of his tantrum. Exhausted, André slumps onto his chair, a new curtain falls down to disguise as much detritus as possible, a new set squeaks across the floor, and the show begins. The irony at the heart of The Eric Andre Show is that he’s feeding the beast even when he’s fighting it.
After season one, André hosted a 2012 New Year’s Eve Spooktacular that takes the show to one logical end: sacrifice at the hands of the Maya. Naturally he returns for a second season, presumably replaced upon expiration by stagehands in the wings. Not only is the show back for a new season, but it has a spiffy new look. At first it’s the same fuzzy, lo-fi throwback in 3:4, and then the frame expands, the high-def polish takes over, and the requisite violence begins. After André is worn out, right on cue a new set slides in on wheels, the gaudy gold curtain replaced by a lush red and the old setup flanked by two extra columns waiting to be smashed. It’s easier on the eyes. Then again, what does beauty have to do with The Eric Andre Show?
Among the recent spate of talk-show parody—Comedy Bang! Bang! doggedly going through the motions, the freeform experimentation of The Chris Gethard Show—what most distinguishes The Eric Andre Show is its disintegration. That’s saying something considering the grandchildren of Norman Lear’s Fernwood 2 Night include the aggressively bad Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (who produce Eric Andre), and its star John C. Reilly created the latter. Somewhat more dedicated to the constraints of its cable-access premise, the two-season oddball is a masterpiece of editing, every cut coming at the worst possible moment, every freeze-frame catching Brule at his most embarrassing. Eric Andre is similarly mis-edited, with its awkward freeze-frames and abrupt “We’ll Be Right Back” titles, but Brule seems to be trying to make a talk show. André the host couldn’t care less.
In the first episode of the second season, for instance, there’s a provocative interview with Eric Balfour. It begins reasonably enough. There are obviously huge chunks of conversation missing, but the audience can basically follow the dialogue. Gradually things get choppier and choppier until the whole thing is whittled down to a machine-gun fire of mood swings and non-sequiturs. The ax falls faster and faster until the entire scene is incomprehensible. This ostensibly extemporaneous conversation goes through production and comes out the other side a collage of shredded bits. It’s like the show is ripping itself apart.
Then there’s the question of what Balfour is doing on this thing in the first place. A hallmark of the old Eric Andre Show was its celebrity impersonations. It was pretending to be a cable-access show, after all. Reese Witherspoon isn’t going to stop by for an interview. Hence her bearded, black, male impersonator. But along with the glossy makeover, the show now has more guests who ought to have agents capable of Googling André. Instead Balfour comes out and is taken aback by André’s laziness, the inhospitable set, and the insulting questions. Or maybe he’s in on it. It’s hard to tell from the hostile editing. But the effect is unsettling regardless. The audience used to be in on the joke as André and his guests would parody the form. Now, from the conspiratorial energy when André pranks a guest to the confusion of sequences like the Balfour interview, the show is really baring its teeth. There’s no superior vantage point anymore.
Every segment maintains the aggression of the intro and the interviews. André rants in his monologue. When he cares enough to pay attention, sidekick Hannibal Buress is all criticism and dead-end hype. Farts and screams pepper the soundtrack, and a sample question might involve drones. Props crash to the floor. Corpses litter the screen. Man-on-the-street bits are basically André getting someone’s attention and then throwing up in front of him. This is a showcase of self-destruction more than anything—stagehands can replace the set, but there’s nobody to the rescue when a clump of André’s hair falls out—and André has no qualms about spreading his misery. When one bystander actually tries to help, the guy gets a freeze-frame at his dopiest-looking for his concern. When women pass by, André catcalls them in the name of, well, something.
Comedy Bang! Bang! is a cheerier thing by sheer dedication to the fake-nice format. Check It Out! is wicked, but Brule’s such a goofy idiot that it’s hard to hold much of a grudge. By contrast, Eric André is positively apocalyptic. It can be hilarious, whether in rib-tickling absurdism, head-scratching surrender to its antics, or good, old-fashioned condescension to André’s character. But the tension that rips it apart and replaces it proves this isn’t just another talk-show satire. The Eric Andre Show has become a true anti-talk-show—now available in HD.
Created By: Eric André, Andrew Barchilon, Kitao Sakurai
Starring: Eric André, Hannibal Buress
Debuting: Thursday, October 3 at 12:30 a.m. Eastern on Adult Swim
Format: Talk-show parody
Two episodes watched for review