Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Unsupervised: “Reggie Dog Bites”

Illustration for article titled Unsupervised: “Reggie Dog Bites”

It’s pretty damn cutthroat to boil a show down to whether it made you laugh or not, but this is America… I mean, this is a comedy. Take away the jokes, and Unsupervised is some pretty serious misery porn. Of course, the misery is part and parcel with the humor. The parade of injustices that befall Reggie on his final march is classic comedy of escalation: First, he gets darted by a bar full of brawlers. Then, he gets torn apart by a pack of dogs. Then, he gets run over by a car, and somehow, he’s still walking home. The fact that even after death, Reggie keeps getting torn apart by dogs and cars and the evaluation that he was an asshole, clinging to his corpse like a Charles Schulz stink cloud, is pure Unsupervised. But beyond the passion of the Reggie, “Reggie Dog Bites” doesn’t offer much in the way of laughs.

What’s more, it doesn’t dig into, say, the class system by way of a literal school class system or a turf war. It’s more a generalized restatement of the basic themes of Unsupervised, which would play a lot better if this weren’t the end, not that anyone involved in the production knew this would be the end. The main idea of Gary and Joel taking it upon themselves to find Reggie a proper burial leads Darius practically to announce the very premise of the show. As it is, he butts up against a line from Arrested Development, when Steve “Steve Holt!” Holt meets GOB at an agency that reunites fathers and sons. Ron Howard’s narrator says, “If Steve had had a father, he would’ve warned him not to go into the woods with strange men, but he didn’t.” Gary comes from a broken home, and Joel may as well, according to Megan, so they wind up doing a lot of disgusting shit above their pay grade that defies common sense.

Meanwhile Megan’s parents are getting divorced, which seems to position her closer to the unsupervised kids, but don’t worry: That potential character development was just a joke. Really, Megan’s just a raging class tourist who conflates her parents going to marriage counseling with the actual pain of Gary’s life with Carol. It’s entertaining to see Megan find creative ways to act out—taking pictures with corpses, bringing a bong to dinner, going to Russ’ house—but that last-second swerve denies all the potential for the sake of a decent joke about Megan being a drama queen. And the humor of Megan’s exaggeration is slightly overwhelmed by the sudden narrative correction. The fact that it takes one line for Unsupervised to restore the status quo is funnier than its implications on Megan’s personality. And what makes a joke funnier than analyzing it component by component for a whole paragraph?

The other general theme of Unsupervised is the do-the-right-thing optimism of an underclass that doesn’t yet know who David Simon is. Unsupervised isn’t all that interested in rewarding moral virtue and punishing moral failure, but “Reggie Dog Bites” is shot through with an almost Greg-Garcia-style karma. Reggie the misanthrope hits every possible rung on the way down the ladder. The only other villain is Megan, only her crimes aren’t that terrible, and she does her time at Russ’ backyard as divine payback. Carol wanders in and out of the story searching for her bong like a Beckett character at a music festival. And everyone else ends up at this funeral-birthday. There’s a measured sadness to the scene of four teenagers burying some asshole in a backyard, but it’s counterbalanced by Russ having the greatest birthday of his young life. He has friends for once. They came for once. And they brought a party game that is perfect for the little weirdo. There’s also the fact that Gary and Joel sincerely believe they’re doing the right thing, so the sight of the bizarre backyard ritual bears that inspirational quality of watching people live up to their ideals. But the final scene of Unsupervised isn’t about morals. The four main characters scoop dirt onto Reggie’s corpse as Russ sings about how he’ll always have friends and how the chicken—Reggie's just-hatched egg—will live forever. There’s comedy in the irony, but there’s optimism in the sincerity. It’s a strangely beautiful closing bit, and a remarkable distillation of Unsupervised.

Stray observations:

  • It’s been a year, but Unsupervised is finally over. I’ll miss this scrappy show and the fans who saw how special it was.
  • Martin returns to deliver one last piece of wisdom. He shouts at Reggie’s spirit, “You stay away from my wife, Mr. Reggie. Wear a condom! I’m kidding! In Heaven, there are no condoms.”
  • Gary isn’t sure exactly where Reggie’s yard is. “All I know is he lived next-door to a bong store. That’s actually where he and Carol met.”
  • A yard full of baby Russes is exactly what I needed. Russ’ younger brother has a particularly funny problem. “Russ, I can’t find my butthole.” “It’s in the middle of your butt, Lester.”