(This review originally referred to this episode as “Jon’s Pub”, the title listed on our screener disc and press materials. The final title was changed to “Warm-Up” when it aired. We’ve updated this review accordingly. – Ed.)
Whoa, I’m disappointed. How did that happen? Delocated is the funniest show on TV. Cheers is an iconic classic that basically defined the sit-com for people my age. Sam Malone should be an easy target for “Jon” (Jon Glaser), as Sam’s exactly the sort of cool, handsome sex genius Jon clearly tries to be. Jon’s immature, inappropriate sexual advances are typically too funny and pathetic to ever seem genuinely creepy, but when channeling Sam Malone his sex talk becomes trite, boring and more than a little off-putting. How did this happen?
It’s not just that the Cheers references are so half-assed and perfunctory. The little taste of Norm and Cliff from Jay (Larry Murphy) and TB (Ali Farahnakian) is expected but necessary. It’s also not that these references are so dated – Jon clearly hasn’t progressed emotionally or mentally past the age he must’ve been when Cheers was on the air, so it makes sense that he’d still be obsessed with it. And hell, everybody seems to be rediscovering Cheers all over again on Netflix, if my Xbox buddies list is any indication.
Jon’s hilarity can be boiled down to two major components: the supreme self-confidence that regularly crosses over into delusion, and his remarkable facility with language. He’s actually a lot like Kenny Powers of Eastbound & Down in both regards. Jon’s breevs and turns of phrase are often tiny bursts of linguistic genius, compounded by the absolute certitude with which he delivers them. Perfect example, from this very episode: “the higher the dawg, the sweeter the chill”. Even when he’s dropping an otherwise played-out pop culture platitude like “bone zone”, Jon somehow makes it his own.
There’s very little of that magic in “Warm-Up”. Jon’s efforts to convince Susan Shapiro (Janeane Garofalo) that there’s a Sam and Diane dynamic between them somehow strips him of his verbal power. Instead of elevating ersatz Sam Malone dialogue to a new plane of so-dumb-it’s-brilliant consciousness, Jon simply reels out witless fifth-rate sit-com dialogue. That’s probably the joke, that Jon is incapable of intentionally doing what he does effortlessly on a regular basis, that an aware Jon is a painfully unfunny Jon. But Jon is funny to us already because he is so unfunny in his own world, so that particular trick doesn’t quite work. At least his toupee and rugby shirt are spot-on Malone.
The best part of the fake Cheers that Jon recreates in the Wang Cho’s headquarters? The boombox laugh track sarcastically triggered by Qi-Qang (Yung-I Chang).
This was actually shaping up to be a great episode before the Cheers stuff came to the forefront. Jon is introduced to the concept of a warm-up comedian while taking David (Jacob Krogan) to a taping of the hit sit-com Attitude Stool (it’s great, but no Jewish Ghost). Pete Fontaine (Kurt Braunholer) is the cheesy stand-up who primes Attitude Stool’s live audience with cornball schtick that Jon naturally loves. Jon loves Pete so much that he hires him to be his personal warm-up guy, introducing Jon at restaurants, work meetings and his own home. Of course everybody legitimately loves Pete’s work, way more than Jon’s own attempts at humor. Jon’s too dumb to notice that, though, until he realizes that Susan has spurned him to go out with Pete. Braunholer is fantastic as the warm-up guy ecstatic at landing “the ultimate warm-up gig”, and his scathing takedown of Jon at the end of the episode is a painful evisceration of the idiot we’ve come to love.
Beyond the Cheers stuff, “Warm-Up” also features a middling subplot involving the Mirminskys. Yvgeny (Eugene Mirman) is excited to launch the MNCFVC, the Mirminsky Non-crime Family Vodka Company. Now that he’s in charge he’s committed to opening a legitimate vodka distillery. His brother Sergei (Steve Cirbus) seethes silently, and after reluctantly supporting Yvgeny’s leadership finally cracks. Mirman and Cirbus are both excellent in their roles, and another Todd Barry cameo might have been the comedic highlight of the episode. The struggle between Sergei, who really does deserve to lead this criminal family, and the lovable idiot Yvgeny is obviously an important part of this season, but the Mirminskys usually operate on both a serious and absurd level at the same time, and this particular storyline hits neither extreme. Like this episode as a whole, it just feels a little flat and uninspired.