Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter is the new show from Jon Glaser, the creator and star of Delocated. There’s not a lot of in-between with Glaser’s last show. If the Internet is to be believed, either you thought Delocated was one of the best shows on TV (as I did), or you completely hated it and thought it represented everything you found wrong with Adult Swim’s growth into live action. Most likely though you probably never saw it or even heard of it—outside of its cult following and the Adult Swim regulars, it didn’t leave much of a pop culture footprint.
Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter is no Delocated, even if Paul Rudd once again dies in the first episode. Delocated was framed as a reality show satire, but abandoned that framework almost immediately in the first episode; it was just a backdrop for Glaser’s absurd take on pop culture and his parody of middle-aged American men. (Remember @DadBoner? Delocated is why people thought Glaser was DadBoner.)
There’s not a lot of space between Delocated’s “Jon” and Neon Joe, and the new show seems like something “Jon” could’ve pitched to the network within Delocated. Glaser’s character Joe doesn’t dominate this show the way “Jon” did his, though. Neon Joe riffs on horror movies, both overtly referencing specific films and playing with larger stereotypes and motifs from the genre. You’ll recognize Glaser’s particular kind of comedy—he’s the sole writer credited on both of the episodes I’ve seen—but it doesn’t feel as perceptive or pointed as Delocated could be. And despite being a horror show, Neon Joe is also nowhere as frightening or intense as Delocated often was—Steve Cirbus, who played the legitimately scary Sergei Mirminsky, here plays a well-meaning local sheriff, and his now calming presence highlights how much greater the stakes felt on Delocated.
Let’s cool it with the Delocated comparisons, though. Neon Joe is a hilariously perverse horror comedy about a small town of fools beset by a werewolf and the grizzled werewolf hunter hired to kill it. The first two episodes play on Jaws, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Misery and more, diffusing whatever dread or tension might exist in the originals through peculiar character quirks and ridiculous details. The werewolf scenes are capably shot like real horror movies, but I can’t imagine anybody finding anything remotely scary about a werewolf attack when most of the scene is about hacky sack, complete with a close-up of a blood-splattered sack with a crime scene evidence marker next to it. The second episode has a lengthy aside about Neon Joe’s old career as the author of the romance series The Adventures of Tip Shades. It has nothing to do with werewolves or werewolf hunting, but it’s a consistently hilarious bit of pure Glaser business.
As played by Glaser, Neon Joe looks like a weird cross between Macklemore and the Green Arrow. Joe is just as embarrassing as “Jon,” but he might not be as incompetent, at least when it comes to werewolf hunting. Glaser surrounds himself with a top-notch cast, including Steve Little, Scott Adsit and Damian Young, and fills the small town of Gerrity, Vermont, with a deep bench of idiosyncratic citizens. After Glaser, the MVP of these first two episodes might be Stephanie March, the former Law & Order: SVU star who isn’t really known for comedy. She plays her role as the mayor almost completely straight, which works perfectly with the material, and is a great contrast to the cartoonish Adsit. Little, meanwhile, might as well be playing Stevie Janowski, his character from Eastbound & Down; that is not a complaint.
Glaser has a firm grasp on all of these characters from the beginning, and his ability to write lines that are audacious and immediately quotable hasn’t dimmed since Delocated. He can spin comedy gold out of a line as skeevy and immature as “my heart’s back on the meat market of love—and it got [sic] a chubby,” while also selling the legitimate emotion behind it. There are a handful of amazing lines from the first two episodes, and most of them are in that trailer linked above.
Neon Joe doesn’t have the impact of Delocated because it’s simply not as universal. Sure, probably none of us can relate directly to entering the Witness Protection Program and starring in a reality TV show, but “Jon” was cut from the same recognizable archetype as Homer Simpson or Kenny Powers, and was, in his own way, a commentary on contemporary America. Neon Joe is similarly arrogant and lacking in self-awareness, but instead of fixating on sandwiches or trying to get on a cereal box with his best friend he’s hunting werewolves in a town full of space aliens and murderous erotica fans. Sometimes sci-fi and the supernatural can act as a potent metaphor for the real world, but in Neon Joe they’re just part of the foundation for Glaser’s ridiculousness. It’s still funny, but I imagine the audience for Neon Joe will be even smaller and perhaps even more split than Delocated’s.
Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter premieres on Adult Swim tonight at Midnight E/P. It runs a new episode every night this week.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games section. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.