As smart-thinking shipboarders flocked to streamers like Paramount Plus and Peacock to see what Taylor Sheridan’s western Yellowstone was all about ahead of its fifth season premiere on Sunday, I caught up on what I consider the year’s best two comedy serial offerings. I shall save the rest of my Yellowstone binge for Thanksgiving break and report back.
Reboot aired from September 20 to October 25. It features Johnny Knoxville (Jackass) Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) and Judy Greer (13 Going on 30) as the stars of an early 2000s laugh track-laden family sitcom seduced into reprising their most popular roles today.
However, it’s the estranged father-daughter relationship between the show-within-the-show’s showrunners, Paul Reiser (Mad About You) and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), that carries this 8-episode force of as something more than mere “Hollywood making fun of Hollywood” entertainment.
Bloom plays Hannah Korman, an indie screenwriter who pitches reviving the wholesome vanilla brainchild of the father who abandoned her (Reiser) and replenishing it with edge and grit. She becomes somewhat of a reluctant hero herself when Reiser’s Gordon Gelman storms his way into the reboot’s co-showrunner post to (1) bring Step Right Up back down to corny-quip Earth each time Hannah dares to take the text dramatically airborne; and (2) make amends with his daughter, for peace of mind and story material beyond their first order of episodes.
Created by an industry veteran in Steve Levitan (Modern Family), Reboot tackles behind-the-scenes, writers’ room and studio lot tensions from a firsthand perspective. More broadly, it demonstrates how old wounds can continuously die hard when circumstances cease to stop lending themselves to confrontations galore. Whether it’s the group of actors reunited to play a fictional family once more or the family upon which the original show and its new iteration’s fundamental conflicts were/are based, plots A-through-C tend to clash in seamlessly cathartic ways as the stakes are raised.
The showbiz-embroiled won’t be the only to benefit. Those who have unorthodox ways of communicating their truth — like exclusively relying on expression via art —will walk away knowing they’re not alone as the process of true creation can sometimes make them feel.
On this note, Reboot is also an authentic representation of replacing toxic team models with healthier ones, thereby resonating with a sportier-minded demographic too — and how one man’s idea can all of a sudden become everyone’s. Step Right Up’s writers room brings millennial and old guard joke-spewers in concert with each other to espouse Reboot’s principal theme: with families and teams, you don’t get to pick who’s around you– but you can pick where all of you go together from there.
Knoxville and Reiser especially shine as a fringe-sober Tasmanian Devilish man and a pompous buffoon, respectively — each of whom becomes more than meets the eye as Reboot peels back their layers. These are two straight white male characters who, in the year 2022, aren’t going to be given ungained glory. And yet, the show checking diversity boxes all around impressively goes above and beyond to not explicitly villainize either of them with broad-strokes problemania.
Their character arcs can be argued as the most important, as they need to establish residency in this place called Second Chance City that the Step Right Up reboot has afforded them more than the rest to best do right by the people they hurt.
For Reiser’s Gordon, it’s his daughter. For Knoxville’s Reed Sterling, it’s himself.
What can be said about FX’s Atlanta that hasn’t already been said? The now-concluded series as of November 10 served as the only acceptable modern-day Twilight Zone update with its propensity to often break from its lore and take a ride on the bottle episode wild side.
The series stars creator Donald Glover (also known by hip hop/rap stage name, Childish Gambino), Brian Tyree-Henry, LaKeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz as four friends in Atlanta that jump as high as riding the coattails of Tyree-Henry’s burgeoning rap sensation “Paper Boi” will let them. Atlanta has been consistently applauded for its commitment to authenticating an entire landscape while heightening reality without ever straying too far from it.
In a year where they unleashed two seasons after a COVID-caused 4-year hiatus, season 4 proved superior to season 3, which, despite its solid offerings, ultimately overstayed its Amsterdam and anthology-distracted welcome. Season 4 brought the crew stateside again. Interestingly enough, the final season let most of the ensemble take a couple of episodes off – as opposed to half – when its best episodes rolled around: episode 5, “Work Ethic!” and episode 8, “The Goof Who Sat by the Door.”
“Work Ethic!” allowed Glover to portray someone other than protagonist Earn Marks for the first time since he played a haunting, bleached-skinned recluse in season 2’s seemingly Michael Jackson-commenting “Teddy Perkins.” This go-around, he plays a Bizarro World Tyler Perry film producer named Kirkwood Chocolate who Van (Beetz) must rescue Lottie, her and Earn’s daughter, from due to Mr. Chocolate’s Christof-in-The Truman Show knack for exploiting his “talent.”
In “The Goof Who Sat by the Door,” the same meta-fictional “Black American Network” that compiled a documentary featurette on a transracial man in season 1 deep-dive dissects an alternate world history supposing Disney’s A Goofy Movie (1995) was “the blackest movie ever made.”
Afro-surrealism and dark comedy were rampant throughout the show that went out with a bang just as loud as it arrived in 2016 with its appropriately entitled pilot, “The Big Bang.” The oft-times otherworldly text will be missed, but it stirred enough discussion to affirm its impact won’t be deleted from hearts and minds anytime soon. Atlanta also proves that Donald Glover has satiric horror film directing, a la fellow comedian-turned-auteur, Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us, Nope), in his future.
The multi-faceted artist will surely add this arena to his arsenal of acclaim the second he decides to make the jump from small screen and music stage to the big screen. With this wider-lensed reach, he can unleash what remains of his societal, racial and overall identity-fueled rage. Perhaps these films will be feature-length chill-inducers reminiscent of Atlanta standalone premises that, though stunning, often had many die-hards feeling positively Darius-deprived.