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Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Workaholics: Responsibilities for the Irresponsible

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, the three leads on Comedy Central’s new series, Workaholics, just can’t live without workahol. By that I mean they are probably too dumb to understand what a workaholic is, and would probably confuse that word with another one. Those characters are Anders, Blake, and Adam — three recent college grads who are attempting to shoehorn jobs into the same schedule they kept during the latter-day National Lampoons movie in which they matriculated for college, apparently.

These characters are played, interestingly, by actors using their real given names. Usually, this is a move that signals to the people who pay attention to such things (i.e. nerds) that the characters’ personalities are not so far removed from the performers’, which I would go ahead and guess is probably true in this case. All three leads are viral video stars from the online collective Mail Order Comedy, and the fast-paced, zippy flow was made for people with YouTube-sized attention spans. The single-cam show moves quickly from one setup to the next, occasionally leaving casually uttered punchlines lingering like freshly exhaled smoke. This is Comedy Central courting the Adult Swim audience, no question, which is probably a smart thing for them to be doing.

As Adam Frucci mentioned in his introduction to Stoner Week, there are some stoner entertainments that simply feature pot smoking, and others whose content clearly caters to a pot-assisted mindstate. All I can say about this show is that it features more pot smoking than I’ve ever seen on television before. There is so much of it that I couldn’t help but feel it was kind of pandering to the smoke-along viewer at home. The plot of this episode was that the guys needed to pass a drug test at the office, which eventually leads them to look for virginal urine. “How are we going to find clean piss when everyone over 12 smokes weed these days?” one character asks, basically patting what probably constitutes most of the audience on the back for being part of “everyone”.

Oddly, though, the show also panders a bit to the fratty element of college. If there’s one thing I know about stoners (from television, of course — never met one before, ever) it’s that they’re not very concerned about getting laid. When Anders is tricked into thinking that he’s about to have some sort of liaison in the opening gag of the episode, he yells out exuberantly, “Countdown to vagina-town!” which felt like it was meant for an entirely lower common denominator.

All this is not to say that the show doesn’t have some things going for it. The quick pace makes room for a lot of fun things to happen, such as the boys’ trip back to the dealer to get Niacin when they think that will help them beat their drug test. “This is legal, you know,” the dealer shouts at the three as they’re leaving. “You know you can get this from the store.” There’s a recurring joke about leaving dollars on the ground with poo rolled up in them which is funny in execution for the way that the three so clearly delight in their prank while the victim is still there. They also manage to cram in a quick Die Hard parody as the urine samples are being kept in a room that requires tunneling through the ceiling to get to. Any parody of the Bruce-Willis-talking-to-himself scenes in that movie is always welcome.

The funniest part of the show, to this viewer, was a brief glimpse of the guys at work; right before they find out they have to submit to a drug test. Just seeing them sit there and  flounder through their telemarketing jobs was amusing, knowing what they did the night before. The little bits of bored salesmanship dialogue felt more snatched from real life than anything else on the show, including the many gratuitous scenes of pot-smoking. Ultimately, though, seeing them at work really drove home the point that it might be a bad time in our economy to put out a show about three recent college graduates lucky enough to have found jobs, who can’t wrap their heads around the fact that they have to do them.

Joe Berkowitz edits books and writes stuff. He also has a Tumblr.

  • http://www.twitter.com/pablogold Pablo Goldstein

    This was a pleasant surprise. I've watched the pilot twice and caught things I missed the first time around which is a testament to how many jokes they pack in to what looks like, from the outside, a crappy sophomoric show. The leads are really likable. Even though 2 suffer from "White Dudes in a Sitcom Who I Can't Tell Apart" disease (see the leads from Perfect Couples for another example), I like the little hints at their personality. Example: J. Crew-wearing bro having a bonsai tree and those ugly framed portraits of the Manhattan skyline in his bedroom.

    This gives off vibes of Always Sunny and The League. Hopefully it veers towards the former and not the latter.