There are pieces of entertainment that are pinnacles of artistic achievement, but seem like they were hellish slogs to film, like Apocalypse Now. The Greatest Event In Television History series belongs in an opposite category of entertainment, one fluffier than cotton candy, but where it's so damn obvious the cast was having a great time on set. This can go right (see: Wet Hot American Summer, Children’s Hospital) or it can go much less right (see: Ocean’s Twelve, The Spoils Of Babylon). For The Greatest Event In Television History 4, it goes very right.
The premise of The Greatest Event In Television History doesn’t seem like it should have a particularly durable motor. The central comedic conceit, in which a group of actors labor in a trouble-plagued production of an unnecessarily elaborate recreation of a moldy TV-credit sequence, seems like it’d work once, maybe twice—but here we are in the fourth and final installment, and it’s still working. Adam Scott’s relentless likability, sharp scripts, and ability to convince all sorts of people to participate in his pet project (in this round, Tom Hanks and Billy Joel are the two big gets) have made each event fun to watch. This episode, with Scott and Paul Rudd recreating the Bosom Buddies opening credits, is the best installment since the first episode's Simon & Simon recreation, although I was hoping Jon Hamm would reprise his role as Jon Hamm’s disdainful ghost.
In addition to being the most polished installment, the fourth Greatest Event In Television History is back to the length of the first two (the third, with its larger cast, was almost double the length). This works to its advantage. The event opens, once again, with Jeff Probst as dapper, profane host, and his confidence appears restored since the last botched outing of The Greatest Event In Television History 3.
After briefly running through the three previous installments, Probst jumps into the next mission: an intricate remake of the Bosom Buddies opening, this time with “bona fide movie star Paul Rudd, and ex-smoker Adam Scott.” Rudd gets the showy, funny part this time around, playing a version of himself maniacally dedicated to period detail. At first he’s just amassing a collection of ‘80s memorabilia like Rubik’s Cubes, Pop Rocks, and posters of Ronald Reagan. We see him in studious conversation with Peter Scolari, the original Henry (who currently graces the small screen on Girls as Hannah’s fedora wearing dad, Tad).
Even with something as deliberately weird as this, I still get thrown when something serialized goes off-canon, so I was initially taken aback that there was no call back to Rudd’s first appearance in The Greatest Event In Television History 1, where he plays himself as a disgruntled director who loathes Scott and Jon Hamm so much he quits. This version of Rudd is far happier to see Scott, and closer to Rudd’s portrayal of happy-go-lucky nitwit Bobby Newport in Parks And Recreation than his grumpier initial characterization.
Grinning, oblivious, idiotic Paul Rudd is a funny Paul Rudd, and his storyline gets real weird, real fast. He disappears for 90 days, leaving the remake team scrambling, only to appear on the first day of shooting (much to the chagrin of his replacement, Tom Hanks) in full-blown method. Like the mom in Goodbye Lenin!, but way more mobile and promiscuous, Rudd becomes convinced he’s living before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and reacts to modern-day items like iPhones with horror. My biggest laugh came when Rudd smashes Scott’s iPhone on the ground.
The production of the Bosom Buddies remake nearly comes crashing down, as all of the Greatest Event In Television History productions are wont to do, when Rudd insists on moving in with Scott and ends up sleeping with his wife. The look on Scott’s face when Rudd details where and when they had sex is wonderful, though when I compare this section to the last installment’s bit when Catherine O’Hara convincing Kathryn Hahn they were secretly gearing up to shoot the next Star Wars, it's a little weaker. The part where Scott and Rudd berate Billy Joel for not sounding like the guy who re-recorded “My Life” for the opening credits, however, was perfect. Plus, the remade sequence this time around is the finest this strange little show has done.
This episode probably would have been charming even if they weren’t recreating Bosom Buddies, but unlike the other shows they remade, I actually watched Bosom Buddies in syndication growing up, so the nostalgia knob was cranked much higher this time around. Unfortunately, the expanded credits cast—a deep bench with Gillian Jacobs, Mo Collins, Aisha Muharrar, Helen Slayton-Hughes, and Aidy Bryant—didn’t get screentime apart from clips of the remade theme song. Aidy Bryant should be in everything, but that’s forgivable because the remake is so, so excellent.
This last Greatest Event in Television History is truly the greatest installment of the Adult Swim show, and even though it’s better to go out on a high note instead of overstaying your welcome, maybe Scott and his merry pranksters will come back next year—if only because a Small Wonder or Mr. Belevedere shot-by-shot recreation would be glorious.