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: Gravity Falls, Face Off, and Rick and Morty!
Adam Pelta-Pauls is watching…
Season 2, Episode 13: “Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons”
Mondays at 8:30pm on Disney XD
Gravity Falls is one of those cartoons that I really miss while it’s on hiatus. In a world full of grimdark Batmen, Fantastic Four movies that seem to lack any sense of fantasy, and horrible pig-men running for President, it’s nice to have a show that takes you away for a little bit. Is that escapism? Probably. But this week, Weird Al voices a math wizard named Probabilitor, so life can’t be all that bad, right?
What makes this show so watchable is its level of quality. Gravity Falls consistently features some of the best voice work on the market right now. With last episode’s introduction of Dipper and Mabel’s Great Uncle Ford, J.K. Simmons has joined the already incredibly strong voice ensemble, which includes Kirsten Schaal, Jason Ritter, Gregg Turkington, and Homestar Runner‘s Matt Chapman, who is also on the writing credits for this episode. If you’ve never seen an episode of this show, you can probably imagine what the humor in it is like based only on the people listed here.
“Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons” was a pretty by-the-book D&D episode (you’ll pardon the pun), but Gravity Falls still makes the Jumanji-esque premise fun to watch. As I mentioned earlier, the resurgent Yankovic adds his talents to this episode as the villain of the game, and he’s belly-laugh funny, but it’s the addition of Simmons to the cast that has me really excited. His Grunkle Ford is somewhere between the fast-talking Cave Johnson from Portal 2 and Legend of Korra‘s lovable monk Tenzin, and Simmons is perfect for imbuing the character with a gruff affability that belies a scarred backstory.
Episode Highlight: Lots to choose from. Grenda’s selection of an armchair as a weapon in D, D, & MD; Mabel’s obsession with the hot elf on the box; Ducktective; FCLORP; the concept of an infinity-sided die; the deep-cut D&D in-jokes this episode references…the list goes on.
Kayleigh Hearn is Watching…
Season 9, Episode 2: “Siren Song”
Tuesdays at 9pm on Syfy
Nine seasons and 99 episodes later, Face Off is showing a few cracks in its otherwise fantastic makeup. The contestants are rounded up and put on a boat where, after some awkward shilling for the Coast Guard, they’re given this week’s challenge: create a beautiful but deadly siren character based on real aquatic animals. With creatures named “peacock mantis shrimp” and “flabellina nudibranch” you know you’re going to see some interesting looks on stage, and even the least successful looks are at least visually striking noble failures.
The problem with watching the first few episodes in any season of Face Off is that the huge cast (16 contestants, and the workroom feels even more crowded because no one was eliminated last week) makes it difficult to grasp who is doing which makeup job, or who we want to root for. I repeatedly rewound to the opening credits to remember peoples’ names, and I eventually gave up, instead mentally referring to competitors by their clothing (Missy, aka “the one in the M. Bison hat”) or tragic backstories (Meg, who survived a bout with cancer before going on the show).
It doesn’t help that the editors rely on story beats that are very familiar to Face Off veterans—take a drink every time someone gets his chest piece stuck in a mold right before a commercial break, or take two drinks every time a male makeup artist sweats that beauty makeup “isn’t my forte.” So there’s a little wear and tear in Face Off’s essential formula—predictable, for a show about to celebrate its 100th episode. Face Off is still a fun show bursting with creative energy and “how’d they do that?” surprises, but it could use a fresh coat of paint.
Episode Highlight: Meg rightfully wins for her Textile Cone Snail Siren designed by her and her partner Kevon. It’s a skillful prosthetic makeup job that is subtle and artful where many of the other looks are too colorful and garish, and her face makeup best embodies the “sexy but deadly” requirement of the challenge. With haunting eyes and pointy teeth, the Textile Cone Snail Siren (is that a band name waiting to happen or what?) is scarily beautiful.
Max Robinson is watching…
Rick and Morty
Season 2, Episode 3: “Auto Erotic Assimilation”
Sundays at 11:30pm on Adult Swim
Rick and Morty was one of the most surprisingly good new shows of last year, balancing cool high concept sci-fi and unique laughs over a really solid first season. The new second season has plenty of both, but this time out with way more emphasis on actual emotional beats and character development. The problem with many crass cartoons that do this (Family Guy and South Park spring to mind) is that it can feel unearned. I don’t care about Peter Griffin or (worse) Brian the dog because they’re solely mouthpieces for jokes, not fleshed out characters.
Rick and Morty fares way better in this regard with “Auto Erotic Assimilation,” which adds a little dimension to amoral Doc Brown-type science grampa Rick. This week’s episode finds Rick, Morty, and Summer encountering a planet enslaved by “Unity,” a green liquid hivemind consciousness (voiced primarily by guest-stars Christina Hendricks and Patton Oswalt) that Rick, naturally, used to bang.
The rote Star Trek-like philosophical debate Morty and Summer have over the morality of Unity’s existence is hilariously cast aside about midway through the episode in favor of a greater focus on Rick and Unity’s relationship. As man and group organism fall back into old bad habits, Rick is ultimately confronted with the fact that his old flame’s moved on in ways he hasn’t (and can’t). She/he/it puts it bluntly that he’s a bad influence and that they both need to realize that. It’s a testament to the quality of the show that Rick’s depressive spiral and attempted suicide at the end of the episode don’t feel like cheap ploys for the audience’s attention. Rick’s a pretty broken person, and this is the first episode of the show to really examine the toll his particular sort of arrested development takes on him. It’s not quite “Fry’s dead dog” level of Adult Swim histrionics, thankfully, but it’s a low key moment that works for the kind of show that Rick and Morty’s shown itself to be so far. Oh and there’s a Beth and Jerry B-plot for this episode, but who honestly gives a shit?
Episode Highlight: Justin Roiland’s delivery of Rick lines is a highlight of pretty much every episode, but his drunken “Uh hey are my grandkids still alive? Oh my drink’s empty!” here was especially great.