Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Son of Zorn, Vice Principals and You’re the Worst!
Andrew Niemann is watching…
Son of Zorn
Season 1, Episode 1: “Return to Orange County”
Sundays at 8:30/7:30c on Fox
Son of Zorn is yet another attempt at filling the coveted fourth slot on Fox’s animated-shows-for-adults block since Seth MacFarlane stopped dominating it completely. The show has an impressive budget, combining both animation and live action settings and characters. The Filmation look and movement of Zorn himself is pretty incredible, and he feels pretty organically connected to the real world. However, the show falters with the comedy itself. The cast is actually quite good, starring familiar faces like Tim Meadows, Cheryl Hines, and Artemis Pebdani from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The titular son of Zorn himself (named Alangulon) also manages to be a pretty decent Michael Cera stand-in. Unfortunately, Sudeikis’ voiceover as the He-Man parody begins to be grating as the show goes on. The pilot episode’s plot is also extremely cookie-cutter, as Zorn tries to connect with his son while his naggy ex-girlfriend (Hines) and her new beta fiancee (Meadows) interfere. There’s more than few transphobic jokes made by Zorn, and even the less offensive jokes just fall completely flat. I’m sure there’s some resemblance of a concept that could work here with such a talented cast but based on this pilot I see this timeslot opening again real soon.
Episode Highlight: The scene which elicited the most chuckles out of me was Tim Meadows convincing himself that he wasn’t a massive disappointment for being an online psychology professor.
Joe Stando is watching…
Season 1, Episode 8: “Gin”
Sundays at 10:30/9:30c on HBO
Vice Principals is a show that manages to defy my expectations and surprise me every week, which is no small feat eight episodes in. It opened with two funny, unpleasant characters and then swung back and forth between putting them in sympathetic situations and showing us how loathsome they really are. In the penultimate episode, Neil Gamby and Lee Russell are both genuinely kind to each other, and horrible, life-destroying sociopaths. Watching loyalties and sympathies shift over the course of this season has been fascinating, and while I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, it looks our… protagonists(?) may have finally won over Belinda Brown.
The strangest element of the show so far is how it’s a “the friends we made along the way” story, beginning with the growing bonds between Gamby and Russell and extending through to Gamby’s friendship with Brown and his relationship with Snodgrass. Gamby’s a pretty scummy guy, but his drive to destroy Brown seems to have given him the confidence he needs to actually better himself, to the point that his life is going as well as it ever has, and he’s in position to get a promotion and be rid of his one-time rival. But his sense of integrity and loyalty flares up and he doubles down on his partnership with Russell, resulting in the unforgivable act of pulling someone who trusts him right off the wagon. It’s a very rough sequence to watch, but also a darkly funny one, with a ton of great physical comedy. I have no idea how the house of cards Gamby and Russell have built will come crashing down next week, but I’m excited to find out.
Episode Highlight: The star player here, unsurprisingly, is Kimberly Hebert Gregory, bringing both humor and depth to Dr. Belinda Brown. The scene at the bar is cringey and tense, but she plays enough jokes broadly enough that it’s still watchable. She’s also got a bunch of great little moments too, from her perfunctory send off to her sons (the second time so far on this show that a parent has essentially broken up with their children) to her startled “why you creepin’?!” at the concert.
Chuck Winters is watching…
You’re the Worst
Season 3, Episode 2, “Fix Me, Dummy”
Wednesdays at 10/9c FXX
Holy Jesus, Stephen Falk is bringing the pain on this one. After a relatively breezy season premiere that reset the baseline for the show while setting the table for the madness to come, “Fix Me, Dummy” dove right back into Gretchen’s struggles with depression, introducing us to her new therapist, Justina Jordan (Samira Wiley).
Usually when a character goes into talk therapy, the therapist character is really just an even-voiced sounding board that allows the characters seeing him/her to make observations and breakthroughs they couldn’t reach on their own. Falk and Wiley gracefully sidestep this from the jump: Jordan’s a real character, seeking to develop a real, therapeutic rapport with Gretchen, and her efforts to do so leave her simultaneously baffled, annoyed, entertained, and ultimately sympathetic—not that you can see any of that beyond the occasional flash of her eyes, subtle inflection of tone, and her occasional “My God this is reality” grin. Cash has a remarkable ability—or perhaps just courage—to turn a laugh-out-loud funny scene into something stone-serious on a dime, her first meeting going from ridiculous challenges to fight Justina, to the heart-breaking reveal of why she doesn’t open the mail, to her flagrant abuse of Justina’s invitation to say anything she wants.
It’s easy to forget that You’re the Worst isn’t about depression; it’s a big square, but it’s not the quilt. The primary story of the show is how people are affected by relationships. In the second season, Gretchen’s depression inspires Jimmy to build her a blanket fort and stay with her, even as she does everything she can to push him away. In turn, Gretchen’s inspired to seek treatment, which we’re seeing play out now. She hems and haws, she gets into fights with Justina, quits therapy, restarts therapy, but in the end, she’s pushing herself to that kitchen table and opening that mail because she wants to get better, and it’s Jimmy who got her there.
But it’s also Jimmy that causes her to freeze up when she gets the kind of bad news that she always expected would send her into a spiral: Jimmy’s dad is dead, and Gretchen doesn’t know how to tell him when he’s riding the high of his book proposal being accepted. Now the question isn’t just “How and when is she going to break the news to Jimmy,” but “How much of this is she going to blame on herself?”
The genius of You’re the Worst is that, looking at all that above, you’d think I was dissecting a character-based soap opera when instead I’m describing an absurdist comedy. It’s the kind of situational “you had to be there” comedy that doesn’t lend itself well to recaps, but it’s deadly, and it’s brilliant. If Season 3 keeps pace with this, it’ll be an all-timer.
Episode Highlight: Allan McLeod (as Paul) is the show’s secret weapon. His bathroom fight with Vernon is the funniest moment of Season 2, and he gets the game ball this episode for the solo scene of him desperately trying to fling the DVDs Lindsey carelessly left him into his DVD player. His horrified reaction to the scene’s cruel punchline puts him over the top.