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The Time: It’s an internet series so you can watch it at your leisure.
Three best friends Val, Jonesy and Fleming are on the run from the police after Jonesy inadvertantly robs a bank with a meat sock (like from Alive). Whilst on the run in their ice cream truck they have many wacky adventures while learning lessons about friendship, understanding and being gangster.
- Joshua Malina – Val
- Michael Panes – Jonesy
- Michael Ian Black – Fleming
- Noah Emmerich – Sgt. Benjamin Belter
- Joe Lo Truglio – Officer Bobby Bleeker
The Episodes: The first seven episodes out of thirteen
Backwash prides itself on being a re-enactment of a lost novel by classic author William Makepeace Thackeray that came bubbling up out of a backed up pipe in a London tea shop’s bidet eight months prior. All the episodes begin Masterpiece Theatre style with a different celebrity hanging out in a lusciously appointed study talking about the masterpiece that Thackeray has created with Backwash, and then reading a chapter from it. The story itself is about two roomates named Val and Jonesy. Val is a monocle sporting blowhard while Jonesy is a hypochondriac who fears the sun and people who speak to him. When Val reads in the paper that you get a free toaster for setting up a checking account, he sends Jonesy on his way with nothing but $200.00 and a sock filled with meat. After getting flustered at the bank by a pretty girl, Jonesy steals $100,000 forcing him and Val to go on the run with their ice cream man friend, Fleming. Hi-jinks ensue.
Ken Marino has one – upped Kristen Bell in his fight to get Veronica
Mars back on the air. If you write a letter to The CW calling for it’s return
he will come to your house and put his whole hand in you. Angrily.
This show wears it’s inspirations on it’s sleeve. Creator Joshua Malina (best known for his work with Aaron Sorkin on The West Wing and Sports Night) has blended slapstick straight from the Three Stooges with character work out of the worst Marx Brothers film but instills it with an absurdity all it’s own. The first two episodes are it’s best as each scene flows with a stream of conscienceness logic that genuinely makes you want to see where the hell this thing could be going but, once it settles into it’s rhythm, the 7 to 8 minute long episodes can start to feel like a chore. The story is interesting at times and the first two episodes made me laugh out loud quite a bit, but somewhere during episode three it just settles into this miasma of suck and never finds it’s way out.
The best thing about the series is easily the bookends by a different actor every episode. Whether it’s Jon Hamm throating matzo wafers or Dule’ Hill busting out a little soft shoe, you never know what the host is going to be doing from episode to episode. The regular cast of Backwash itself doesn’t fare as well. Joshua Malina is definitely the highlight with some excellent comic timing, although I worry for him because he looks pretty sickly thoughout the first seven episodes. His skin is looking like Cloris Leachman’s back. Michael Panes comes off like a less likable version of Eddie Jemison from the Ocean’s Trilogy. He’s just a jewish stereotype with no soul. The groaner, however, is Michael Ian Black (who I loved on Stella and the State) doing another variation on his wide-eyed, smiling manchild schtick. Every single line out of his mouth was so overacted and unfunny that I was afraid he made me retroactively hate Wet Hot American Summer. He didn’t. But it was close.
A lot of the jokes really didn’t work for me as I think people getting bonked on the head while a loud, obnoxious sound effect blares stopped being funny when I was in my early twenties, but when they go for the truly absurd shit, like the meat sock or throwing ice cream at cops during a low speed chase, I found them almost reeling me back in. It just never felt like they knew what show they were trying to be, a slapstick Vaudevillian act or subversive commentary on American stupidity. It never strikes a balance that makes you want to see the next episode since none of the characters are memorable or even likable.
It’s hard to judge this series having only seen the first seven episodes. Maybe they hit their peak in the final six and go out on a high note, leaving us talking about it’s brilliance for months to come, but as it stands, the show is instantly forgettable, bolstered only by a few moments of absurd brilliance and a few excellent cameos. The first seven episodes take less than an hour to watch, but less than an hour after that you’ll be wondering what the hell you just did.