Things are getting dire in the streaming era. Nearly everyone has their own streaming service. I do. It’s called Brok and so far I only have the rights to rebroadcast a Slovakian public access documentary about tainted wells and every single episode of Joey. I’ve made eighteen dollars this month from ads assuring my viewers that discount tire companies are here for you during These Uncertain Times. There are too many baskets and not enough dicks, I guess is what I’m saying here. There’s just not enough quality programming out there to fill all the services started by the shitty sons of sketchy Russian millionaires. Even Amazon Prime is having troubles, which I assume from watching their new series, Gary Busey: Pet Judge.
Gary Busey moderates funny pet-related disputes in a mock Reality TV parody of The People’s Court, and if you recognize every part of that description as wildly outdated, well then I’m sorry you didn’t get that job as head of programming for Amazon Prime Video. If you made this show fifteen years ago people would have said “really? A People’s Court reference? That is so fifteen years ago. Now please get out of the way — I have to ride my pocket bike to a Franz Ferdinand concert and I’m already late because of that flash mob pillow fight. Poker will never not be cooooool!”
Let’s watch it anyway. There’s a plague. The fuck else are you doing?
Gary Busey is, as always, a Greyhound station at 2AM:
And every case is an excuse for aging improv actors to demonstrate why they failed that MADtv audition.
Gary Busey: Pet Judge owes about half of its comedic stylings to Best In Show, and the other half to Tim and Eric — the two properties responsible for more damage to comedy than Borat. Don’t get me wrong: Best in Show and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! were both great, but they taught a generation of aspiring comics that anyone can be funny without telling jokes, and then those comedians spent the next decade inventing new ways to prove that wasn’t true. Now everyone that’s not sure where to start with this whole “funny” thing does this:
Dude looks like he’s attending a Halloween party as ‘Misremembered Napoleon Dynamite Reference.’ He is here to be incredibly awkward in a way that you are very prepared for, and he doesn’t even get real people to sweat on. He only interacts with other gasping improv comics whose every character is ‘myself, but more unlikeable.’
Luckily there is a crazy beating heart in the chest of this desperate premise. Yes, it’s the King of Quirk himself, Gary Busey:
Haha, classic Busey! Always looking like a drunk mop and saying shit that sounds like it’s been translated to Chinese and back. I’m sure they’ve written some baseline setups for his weirdness, but you cannot get Gary Busey to follow a script unless you tape it to the ghosts he thinks are attacking him. At the very least, you know all of the strange acronyms and endocrine references are pure unmitigated Busey:
Hey thanks! That’s really cool. Listen, I do not have a cigarette and I’m starting to think I missed the last bus to Akron. I’m just gonna go to the bathr-
You’re going to follow me to the bathroom, aren’t you?
Gary Busey has the mannerisms of a shell-shocked lizard and he talks like he came unstuck from time while having an argument with Bjork. But hey, real quick, do you know why Gary Busey is like that?
If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember that. It was a huge deal. But we’ve been making fun of Gary Busey’s brain damage for so long that a whole generation of young adults have no idea ‘the weird dude from reality shows’ actually left every third thing he knew on a California sidewalk back in 1988. Gary Busey is only “quirky” because he was in the most ironic type of motorcycle accident:
And has been suffering from long-term degenerative brain damage ever since. In fact, that’s where those acronyms come from. He’s not joking about those — they mean the world to him, and they literally started the second he scrambled his brain.
If you’re under 30, Gary Busey’s just a Hollywood Weirdo best known for being the wild card that derails the Build-A-Bear challenge and gets Team Leader Xzibit sent home. But start at the bottom of his IMDB page and scroll up to watch a man lose his mind in slow motion. If they’d picked any other host, this series would have only been disappointing. But by anchoring the whole thing on Gary Busey and then staffing it with quirky extras doing Eric Andre impressions, they have effectively made a show where everyone is pretending to have mental problems except for the main character, who is genuinely trying to communicate with other humans through a broken interface.
I’m not trying to take the moral high ground here. The savvy among you may have noticed I made several Gary Busey jokes, myself, and if you missed them, here’s another one: Gary Busey is like if Nick Nolte fell into a vat at Ace Chemicals.
I don’t even know what the moral high ground is in this situation, because the alternative to paying Gary Busey so you can laugh at his brain damage is not paying him at all. I’m just saying half of this show is written to be “quirky” and “awkward” and the other half of this show is trying to cushion Gary Busey’s forehead as he headbutts holes in the drywall looking for wall gold.
Please note that those improv comics’ hilarious response to this one was “stunned silence,” followed by “checking around the set to see if anyone was coming to help.”
Amazon have effectively made a show called “guess which one has genuine mental health problems” and it is fucking crazy that premise got greenlit! It’s literally a comedy show designed around trying to ‘one-up’ a mental patient as his scattered brain draws faulty conclusions from neuronic connections whose other half is coloring a curb in Culver City.
This format does not function in any other permutation! You can’t pair a bunch of young actors pretending to be goth with one that’s genuinely suicidal and bill it as a comedy. You probably can’t set it on a bus and call it Across the Street or Down the Road. You can’t start a dating show by mixing a bunch of reality skanks in with one seeking help for a crippling sex addiction. Maybe her name is Penny, but even so, you certainly can’t call it Penny For Your Thots. You can’t… you can’t pair a bunch of comedians doing cruel impressions with a guy who actually has Down’s Syndrome and then bring on contestants who have to guess which ones are faking. You can’t call it Don’t Bring Me Down’s. You can’t do it! You should go to jail for thinking it! You can’t hire a bunch of improv dropouts and put them in a room with a mental patient and tell them all “everything he says is your next prompt” and call it Gary Busey: Pet Judge. Oh wait, shit, that’s the real one!
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