Wykyd Specter

Salt Lake City Weekly | December 13, 2004
Sometimes they come back—and I’m not referring to that lousy Stephen King TV movie, even if it was the apex of Alexis Arquette’s career. No, The Only TV Column That Matters™ is talking about the quiet (damned near subliminal) television comeback kings of 2004, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the men behind HBO’s long-ago-canceled Mr. Show With Bob & David, the greatest sketch-comedy series in TV history.

No apologies to Monty Python, Kids In the Hall, Saturday Night Live or SCTV; due acknowledgement to The Ben Stiller Show (only one season), Upright Citizen’s Brigade (almost too out-there) and Chappelle’s Show (still early); technical disqualification to The O’Reilly Factor (not intentional comedy—but funny!).

Mr. Show only lasted four seasons between 1995 and 1998, running late-nights on a pre-critically-anointed HBO (The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm, not yet; Arli$$, oh yeah), but the cult is sizable and rabid. For political/societal satire at the expense of Dumb America, Dumb Media and Dumb Everything Else, Mr. Show’s seamlessly flowing sketches are still unmatched anywhere six years later.

Strangely enough, Mr. Show and its stars have never been more TV-visible than this year: The last and arguably best of the series’ DVD sets, Mr. Show With Bob & David: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner Home Video), was released in September, four months after the long-long-long delayed DVD release of the Mr. Show-inspired movie Run, Ronnie, Run! (New Line Video). Whereas Ronnie is a scattershot comedy famously (to fan-boys) bastardized by a director who didn’t “get it,” Fourth Season is Odenkirk, Cross and a killer cast of supporting players (including the future SpongeBob SquarePants, Tom Kenny) still being left completely alone by HBO—for one final season, at least. Too many highlights to list, but the “Wyckyd Scepter” sketch about a gay heavy-metal band is such a classic, The Strokes christened their 2002 headlining debut “The Wyckyd Scepter Tour,” much to the confusion of many not in the Mr. Show know.

Who knows if that episode will ever turn up on TBS’ Too Funny to Sleep, a Friday late-night strip of comedies comprised of reruns of Family Guy, Futurama and, most surprisingly, profanity-edited versions of Mr. Show With Bob & David? Like the fellow HBO series that preceded it to TBS, Sex and the City, Mr. Show seemed as comfy a fit on basic cable as Miss Kitty’s Strap-On Emporium in a suburban strip-mall. But, good writing trumps censorship: Mr. Show is still funnier than Sex and the City was in its sluttier original form, and you don’t see Arli$$ in syndication anywhere, do you?

Even more unlikely than Mr. Show running between cartoons on cable in the middle of the night was the sight of Bob Odenkirk shilling for Miller in its “President of Beers” ad campaign earlier this year. But don’t call it a sell-out: “I would have done the commercials for anybody that paid me that much money,” Odenkirk told U-Wire. If it helped finance his bizarre new Cartoon Network/Adult Swim series, Tom Goes to the Mayor, a civic-pride Dada-fest that spews the most hysterical small-town commentaries since South Park, let’s all crack an MGD.

Six years late, but 2004 belongs to Mr. Show—terra delu! Now, let’s blow up the moon …

Bill Frost can be reached at frost@slweekly.com

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