Delocated Review: "Lipples" (Episode 3.01)
People don’t believe me when I tell them that Delocated‘s second season was one of the best shows of 2010. They see the Adult Swim logo and Jon Glaser in his black skimask and just write it off as either stoner nonsense or “too cool for school” anticomedy for hipsters (as if that word has any meaning). It’s their loss; you don’t have to be a student or a 4Chan creep to dig this show. Delocated offers the sly absurdity of alternative comedy in a somewhat traditional sit-com package that won’t scare away viewers who think Tim and Eric or Squidbillies are too smug or weird. And at its darkest and most daring, Delocated can be as affecting as any drama.
If you’ve never heard of Delocated before (which is entirely too possible), it’s about an unbearable lout and federally protected witness nicknamed “Jon” who stars in a reality show called Delocated. He has to wear a mask within the show to shield his identity from the Russian mobsters trying to kill him. It weaves a ridiculous sketch comedy sensibility throughout the larger plot, which usually hinges on the oblivious and self-obsessed “Jon” reacting to various friends and loved ones being murdered by the mob. The tone can shift abruptly from relatively light-hearted absurdity into some seriously dark territory, but even at its darkest the show is thoroughly committed to its ridiculousness. It can be shocking and unnerving but always hilarious.
Season three, which started last week, brings big changes. Half the cast from season two is gone, and their exits are explained in a quick “previously on Delocated” montage. Mighty Joe Jon, the Black Blond, the network executive that was played by Jerry Minor, was killed off at the end of season two. Jon’s girlfriend Kim, played by Zoe Lister Jones, left Jon for the wasteland that is Whitney. His FBI agent bodyguard Rob (Mather Zickel) was fired, and the entire federal protection program outsourced to a private security firm. Most surprising of all, Jon’s ex-wife “Susan” (Nadja Dajani), is killed by the frightening mob hitman Sergei Mirminsky (Steve Cirbus)
“Lipples” wastes no time replacing these characters. Jon’s new guard, TB (Ali Farahnakian), is a silent paramilitary pro who designed the human pyramid at Abu Ghraib. Janeane Garafalo appears as Jon’s new network boss, and in her two scenes seems far less encouraging of Jon’s idiocy than Mighty Joe Jon was. British comedian Marc Wootton rounds out the new cast as the Glaze, a life coach brought in to help Jon deal with "Susan"’s death.
“Susan” looms large over “Lipples”. Jon’s having a tough time with her death, tougher than his son David. Of course Jon can’t or refuses to acknowledge his pain, even as TB catches Jon giving himself a handjob with one of "Susan"’s dresses (TB offers to help out; “it’s not a sexual thing – it’s a warrior thing”). As always Jon maintains a pathetic and transparent tough guy stance. He uses David as a surrogate for his own grief, agreeing to the network’s recommendation of a life coach to help his son navigate his feelings even though it’s painfully obvious Jon is the one who needs the help.
I’ll have to adjust to Wootton, who plays the Glaze as more of a cartoon than most characters in Delocated. Most characters on this show are ridiculous, of course, but they’re almost all grounded to an extent by surprising dimensions or recognizable human concerns. So far the Glaze feels like a one-joke Saturday Night Live character. Wootton’s definitely funny, but his first appearance in this episode threatens the very slight membrane of realism that envelopes the show’s absurdity.
The Glaze’s big idea to help David is for Jon to spend half of each day dressed like “Susan” and performing all the duties she did as David’s mother. But even when “Lipples” dips into the broad sight gag of Jon in a dress its humor remains more inspired and surprising then the drag idiocy of something like Work It, as when a despondent, emotionally battered Jon does a thoroughly unsexy strip tease for TB on a New York street corner before begging for the “‘Susan’ hand”.
The Glaze also recommends that Jon look for physical protection beyond the government. Naturally Jon hires the Chinese mob to go take out the Mirminskys. Qiqang (Yung-I Chang), a young leader of the Wang Cho family, strikes as intimidating a figure as Sergei, but is more suave and stylish. Their first action on Jon’s behalf: orchestrating the murder of the Mirminskys’ father, the man who Jon sent to jail. No doubt laughs aplenty will ensue as Jon finds himself stuck in the middle of this war between the Wang Chos and Mirminskys.
While Jon deals with his emotional and physical concerns, would-be mob boss and stand-up comedian Yvgeny Mirminsky (Eugene Mirman) learns to become a man. His subplot is short on screentime but it’s easily the best part of “Lipples”. Yvgeny falls in love, finally losing his virginity. At the pivotal moment Sergei busts into Yvgeny’s room and tells him their father is dead. Yvgeny’s cries of “I’m a man now, Papa!” as he climaxes are hilarious and disturbing, and more proof that Delocated can be braver and more searing than most dramas.
Other than that one moment “Lipples” doesn’t quite hit the highs of season two. Part of that is simply due to being introduced to so many new characters at once. Hopefully as season three progresses the new crew will prove worthy successors to the departed.