You might get a bit of a buzz, but sketch show isn’t all highs
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/07/2011 (4086 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Sometimes, when the burden of TV-icon status becomes too much to bear, actors will resort to wearing disguises in order to avoid being recognized by an adoring but sometimes suffocating public.
One can’t help wondering if that’s what Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay and Mike Smith — a.k.a. Trailer Park Boys‘ beloved Ricky, Julian and Bubbles — had in mind when they dreamed up their new show, The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour.
The six-part miniseries, which airs on Showcase’s male-skewed spinoff network, Action, finds the TPB trio donning a variety of costumes and prosthetics and assuming dozens of different identities as they embark on a wild, erratic and sporadically entertaining ride through a hallucinogen-altered show-within-a-show landscape.
The premise is as simple as its execution is convoluted — Wells, Tremblay and Smith play themselves as actors who’ve been dispatched to the sleepy town of Port Cockerton to shoot a new sketch-variety show called The Happy Funtime Hour. Once there, however, the actor hired to play a scientist named Dr. Funtime (the late Maury Chaykin, looking very frail) begins experimenting with some local berries that turn out to have powerful, addictive hallucinogenic properties.
Before long, everyone involved in the production is high and hooked, and the footage sent back to the network for early review is a jumble of drug-fuelled nonsense.
“What the furry (expletive) is that?” rails the angry network exec, beginning a profane tirade that will reassure TPB fans that the boys haven’t lost their edge. “I paid for The Happy Funtime Hour, not the The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour!”
To be fair, there’s very little evidence of alcoholic excess in what Wells, Tremblay and Smith are up to — the drug-abuse part, well, that’s another story. They’ve been high as kites for weeks, as have all their cast and crew co-workers, and to make matters worse, one side effect of the berry-derived hallucinogen is that the actors have started believing they’re actually the characters they were hired to play.
Which is problematic, given that the sketch-show playlist seems to include First World War commandos, pirates, cartoon superheroes and human-sized flies, just for starters. There’s chaos in Cockerton, that’s for sure — and with a few notable exceptions, it’s the central trio of Trailer Park alumni who play all the major roles from under varying layers of makeup and body padding.
Clearly, what Wells, Tremblay and Smith are after here are an intricate sketch/character comedy along the lines of what was accomplished by The Kids in the Hall’s Death Comes to Town or Brit TV’s The League of Gentlemen. Based on the episodes provided for preview, they’re a long way off, but you have to admire the trio’s ambition in trying to move beyond the singular made-for-cable success that elevated them to rock-star status in Canadian pop culture.
— — —
Triumph? Time will tell: Last month, it was Spenny without Kenny. This week, it’s Kenny without Spenny. Following on the heels of the June première of Showcase’s Single White Spenny, Spencer Rice’s former friend/foe/foil makes his return to the cable-TV game in Kenny Hotz’s Triumph of the Will.
Without Rice to spar with and scheme against, Hotz is left competing with himself, issuing offbeat challenges and then seeing if he can succeed. In the episode provided for preview, Hotz tries to concoct a romantic re-awakening for his long-widowed mother.
It seems like a noble goal, but Hotz’s seeming need to shock leads him to subject the gentle octogenarian to some stuff no son should put his mother through, like encouraging her to consider cosmetic surgery, visiting a sex therapist who shows off a variety of adult toys, arranging a wardrobe makeover and then videotaping his mom in various stages of undress, and setting up a meet-and-greet session that becomes humiliating when no eligible gents attend.
In the end, Hotz redeems himself by creating a very special moment for his mom. But after what he’s put her through, it hardly feels like a triumph.
The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour
Starring Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay and Mike Smith
Friday at 8 p.m.
Kenny Hotz’s Triumph of the Will
Starring Kenny Hotz
Friday at 9 p.m.
After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.