BOOS! and WHOOP-DOOS!: Food Party Vs. Tim and Eric!
Food Party? Whoop-doo!
There hasn't been much said about this fantastically odd dip into freezer-burnt hysteria since its debut last summer. The hippest hipsters aren't babbling about its necessary weight in hilarity yet. Blog nerds and twitter enthusiasts have failed to muster up much enthusiasm for the ten-minute episodes gloriously destroying Tuesday nights on IFC at the moment. It's understandable, since that particular outpost in programming is crammed full of delicious entertainment offerings. All of it hyped beyond the boundaries of our interlocking media outlets. Glee is riding a wave of pop frenzy that has even the most jaded, toothless, musical-hating hill jack singing its praises deep in the darkest recesses of the Appalachian trail. Timothy Olyphant is killing customers with satisfaction on Justified. Southland has proven to be the little juggernaut that could with its tense six-episode Season Two short run. And despite this being the worst group of contestants yet, Crystal Bowersox has managed to breath a Jim Beam jigger of beautiful life back into the once mighty American Idol. She's the only thing making it more than just another horrible karaoke session this year. And people are watching at this late date solely because of her vocal prowess.
It's understandable why you might have missed Chef Thu Tran and her all-new second season of Food Party. It's being buried. But like all great cult sensations, this is something that will slowly be discovered by late night creepers deep trolling for interesting fodder they can share with their co-workers vie a viral video the next day. Thu and her hardworking crew are currently reaching that point of heightened genius most great shows discover the further they get into their run. The first season was good. Interesting. Colorful. Very eye catching. If you happened upon it by accident, you'd definitely sit in bewilderment trying to figure out what, exactly, you'd gotten yourself into. That first season played like a transmission from the sunnier side of Hell. Season two is culling everything that was great about that first year, and propelling it forward in amazing and shocking ways.
What is Food Party exactly? It's a celebration of the culinary arts sped through at an accelerated rate. It's a cooking show for depraved foodies with a thread bare attention span and a thirst for new culinary dishes that are so beyond the realm of apolitical thought, you'll want to eat them out of sheer curiosity, yet hold back vomit by mention of their ingredients. It's also a puppet show. A self-reflective comedy of errors. It borrows heavily from Sesame Street, but embraces that conceit. It doesn't shit all over it and turn it into some weird, abrasive shocker like Wonder Showzen or Avenue Q.
Though Food Party embraces the adult side of comedy, Thu upholds a child like sense of wonder and awe, and she never goes beyond the edge of bad taste. She's a tiny sprite meddling with the grotesqueries that fascinate and amuse most preteens. And her show bleeds like the next logical, evolutionary step from Yo Gabba Gabba!. It's a grown woman playing with food in the most imaginable way possible. And it's a delightfully trippy ride that is intense, detailed, and revolutionary. Its astounding what this tiny, mischievous creature can knuckle-shove into one ten minute outing. Not a minute is wasted, and there is barely time to ponder the intricacies of what is exactly going on here.
Thu herself calls it visual MSG. As a performer, she is equally fascinating. A "mixed media artist" who resides in Cleveland, Ohio and works painting sub shop murals and penning book illustrations, she's not your typical TV personality. Her delivery is untrained. Which makes it oddly unique. She is constantly smiling, and having far too much fun. Its as though she is getting away with something impossible, and gleefully showering this snatch-and-grab attitude upon her audience with abandoned merriment. There doesn't seem to be any interference from IFC as to what she can do. This is her team's vision, and it never falters. It's an enterprise reaching its creative peak as we speak. It reminds me of another ten-minute episodic show that once dominated the Universe. If you like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Food Party is riding the same Technicolor wave of Ultramodern brevity. Though in terms of quality and entertainment this sprummer season, Thu is smothering Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim under a warm snuggle of chuckles. Yes, she has snatched the torch from their loosening grip on utter weirdness.
Some might find that blasphemous. But Thu is fresh and clean, here in her second season. The boys' shenanigans ran a little dry as their fifth year came to a close this past Sunday with an almost inspired Christmas-in-May thirty-minute special revolving around the gag-inducing idea of "man milk". Their Season Cinco didn't serve up the usual hilarity we've come to expect out of TV's two most unlikely comedy heroes. Their latest episode run was dark and damp. It relied far too heavily on the obtained glory of past sketches. It wasn't funny for the most part. And a lot of it felt rehashed and stale. If you're a fan, and you've discovered the DVDs, you've most certainly watch the deleted sketches that were thrown in the dumpster. Season Cinco, quite shockingly, had a similar look and feel to those discarded ideas. The bright spots were fleeting. And the best parts weren't jokey. Yet rather intense and disturbing. Reflective of a dying culture engorged with its own inability to conjure new thought. It has been a state of the union address on America's love for repetition and complacency in the media. In a word. Its been too samey to be affective.
It's not because Tim and Eric have run out of steam. Far from it. After conducting about two seconds worth of research, it becomes quite obvious that their Adult Swim playground has turned into a dumping area for secondary sketchs. The same thing happened to the equally brilliant Trailer Park Boys in its sixth season. The Sunnyvale gang was shooting a movie at the exact same time, and all the biggest and best ideas went into that venture. All the while, the TV show picked up the discarded scraps. Have you ever seen the other works genius Albert Einstein pooped out while hitting upon E=MC2? No? That's because they're in a drawer somewhere, hidden way in embracement. Just like Season Cinco of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! will be in the very near future.
While putting together their latest ten episode box set, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim were also busy penning their first big screen incarnation Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie. Which, if it clocks in at more than an hour and forty minutes, will be longer than all of Season Cinco combined. Of course it got all of their best jokes. Their newest, freshest material. The funniest gags. And the most inspired bits of insanity all to itself. But the boys weren't just taking on the auburn task of creating a show and a movie at the same time. They were also heavily contributing to HBO's funny or Die Presents. They parlayed their talents into Tool Frontman Maynard's vineyard documentary Blood Into Wine. They collaborated with that film's two directors in helping write the screenplay for the recently announced Queens of Country. And they've been helping John C. Reilly spin-off his Awesome Show character Dr. Steve Brule into his own series, which premieres on May 16th. That's not running out of steam. That's squeezing out scentless air farts of nothingness after evacuating the last remains of a huge thought bubble. That's exactly what we can equivocate Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Season Cinco too.
I don't want to slam or disregard Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim's current output of televised work. Some of it has merit, and its all leading to greater things down the road. Not every Wings album was a smashing success. Looked at as an avant-garde visual display instead of a comedy sketch show, these are still some of the most irreverent artists putting themselves out there today. They create truly original works of spasmodic ickiness. This past batch of episodes just happened to have a huge, grey cloud looming over them. And in turn, it's not the most approachable material being handed down from above. Some might call it the worst season to date. I'd rather look at it as an interesting case study in how far one should push their creative juices when they're already running low on gas.
Bad? No. Fun? No. Interesting and subversive? To its very core. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! lost its unbridled sense of joy and wonder this past season. That's something Food Party is finding for itself and wallowing in delightfully at the moment. It happens with everything. On the counter-culture comedy circuit, Food Party is that new pair of shoes that is just starting to break itself in. It's comfy and pleasing to the eye. There are no scuffs or streaks of dirt on its shiny veneer. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! is suddenly playing like a dusty old pair of Adidas. You want to throw them in the closet for a while and not look at them. But the rains will come. And you'll want to wear them again. When the time is right, and the atmosphere is appropriate. When Thu saddles herself with a big screen adaptation of her TV show while also still making her TV show, we'll probably feel the same way about her burgeoning enterprise. I'm sure of it.
The most interesting aspect to stem from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! this past season is that it immediately followed Breaking Bad's gasp-inducing crotch-kick of a third year. Bob Odenkirk is offering career best work on that show as lawyer Saul Goodman. Then we get to see and hear him as the grooming shepard of Tim and Eric. His participation on both series couldn't be any more different than the other, and it's amazing to watch him juggle his noted persona between these two very different projects. Anyone not watching Breaking Bad right now is missing out on not only Bob's deft hand at turning in stellar character work, but also on one of the best television series ever produced.
With last Sunday's 3.07: One Minute, the gang over at AMC have given us one of the very few single greatest episodes ever created for the small screen. And that's certainly not lofty praise. I can't even tell you what happens, because I know a lot of folks haven't embarked on this journey yet, and you have to get through all of the episodes leading up to this one for it to have the intended wattage of electricity it delivers. Just know that once you hit upon this mid-season punch in the face, you won't be able to sit down for at least an hour. You'll cheer, you'll cry. You'll wonder why you didn't hear about it sooner. 3.07: One Minute is the type of episode usually reserved for the season finale. Heck, its of series finale quality, and should be talked about for a very long while. That Season 3 still has six episodes left to go makes me fear how utterly awesome and heartbreaking this show is actually going to get.
Food Party? Whoop-doo! Join this culinary soiree today! Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Season Cinco? Boo! Though I have total faith that the movie is going to rejuvenate their motivational spirit. Breaking Bad season three? Whoop-holy fucking Christ-doo! Best thing on television at the moment. Period. And that about sums up everything going on in the world of Must-See TV at the moment.