A Review of John C. Reilly’s Adult Swim Special ‘Bagboy’

Steve Brule and the Channel 5 team star in an original sitcom pilot with horrifying results. Happy Holidays!

“A new situational comedy that is written, directed, and starring Channel 5’s Steven Brule”

At some point, Tim, Eric, or John C. Reilly had a brilliant, twisted idea: wouldn’t it be fun if the fictional character of Steve Brule did a television pilot at some point in his career? 

And what if that pilot finally surfaced and saw the light of day? What they’ve put together here is something special that isn’t just a Check It Out! episode with a weird slant, but rather an odd extension of all of that that builds something new using these dysfunctional, confusing characters as its cipher.

This also isn’t the first time that Tim and Eric have played around with a fake sitcom before, lampooning the format in their Just 3 Boyz or some of their entries out of their latest Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories. So this isn’t new ground for them. We know that they’re capable of doing this, which is why it’s nice to see that this pilot is almost more interested in world building and acting as a showcase of existing weirdness from their universe (it’s been forever since we’ve seen former mainstay David Liebe Hart performing amongst this crew). 

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Immediately, we’re bombarded with an upsetting, polarizing presentation style and motif. An extended sequence of color bars starts everything off, and so literally the first thing you’re getting is forty seconds of high-pitched noise. A laugh track is thrown in too, and all of this feels like an experimental It’s Gert/Check it Out! hybrid (with some of Lynch’s nightmare sitcom On the Air thrown in for good measure). All of this pushes the limits of what a sitcom is as typical broad conventions are embraced, like Steve delivering hammy one-liners and punchlines right to the camera as it zooms in on him, or actors missing their cues. 

To get a taste of the sort of humor that is being generated in this, here is an exchange between a customer and Steve Brule:

“Excuse me, can you tell me where the bananas are?”

“What are you, some kind of monkey?”

“Actually, I am.” 

At which point, text reveals that the customer is Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. Then, Steve spends the next few moments explaining to you that this is Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees, to make sure you get it. This is by-the-book, cliché sitcom fodder that’s exactly as you’d want it to be.

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Early on, we’re also shown that this pilot is a Channel 5 production, which seemingly was meant to air at Christmastime due to the tree we see in the wraparound material. This is all courtesy of Myer’s Super Foods, a mainstay (and almost their de facto Cinco Industries) from Brule’s universe.

The pilot of Bagboy is the first episode of a show that had Brule working at a Myer’s Super Foods, shelving their assortment of products, like White Food Medley, Boiled Hooves, Pork Cubes, Puddle Fish, and Canned Whipped Bacon. The pilot chronicles the problems Steve faces at work, like trying to mop the floors, getting through staff meetings without too many pencils breaking, and generally pleasing Mr. Myers. The biggest plot point here is that to incentivize stopping shoplifters, Myers is offering ten cans of super foods to whoever can catch the shoplifter. Say no more. These are high stakes. And even higher when the shoplifter turns out to be Daisy’s younger brother and Steve’s torn between the food cans and Daisy’s cans. 

This episode features a real eclectic cast, consisting of what might as well be the “Not Ready For Primetime Channel 5 Players.” Talents of the likes of Jocelyn Van Ord, Pablo Myers (whose non-actor status is shown with his constant looking at the camera), Brown the butcher, Jake Elliot, Scott Clam, Doug Prishpreed (who really steals the show in his guest staring role), a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Ron Don Volante, Dorris Pringle-Brule-Salahari (Steve’s mom), Carol Krabit (as a fancy debutante, Mrs. Livingstone), Terry Bruge-Hiplo, and David Liebe Hart as the voice of “Dog”, a large dim-witted dog puppet. All that’s missing is an appearance from the off-putting Mobin

This is really a murderers’ row of deep cuts from the Tim and Eric-verse (Wayne and Jan Skylar are even consulting producers here), so there is much potential for where all of this could go, rather than it simply being a vehicle for Steve Brule to hurt himself for twenty-two minutes. It’s really telling that the bulk of these people have appeared on Check It Out! before. They all work so well here because of the culmination of what’s been established on that show.

I always love when Tim and Eric expand their universes or bridge them together, and this is a great example of them pushing that world one step further. We basically see all of these characters do their routine shtick from Check It Out! (Steve even slips into a “for your health” over gun safety briefly) but in a sitcom construct, whether it’s organic to what’s going on or not. There’s even a Myer’s Super Foods commercial straight out of Check It Out! that’s used in the episode.

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After taking all of this into consideration, it’s kind of amazing that John C. Reilly has been doing this character for so long now and has gotten so good at it. You really do forget what’s going on here. I mean, at the end of the day, this is a sitcom pilot that John C. Reilly did. I’m sure that he’s been given several opportunities to star in actual sitcom or drama pilots that he’s turned down, and it’s just so beautiful that this is what he ends up deciding to do with his time. It’s just magical and shouldn’t be. 

There’s a very touching moment where Steve and his mother bond together, sharing their love and embracing each other. Considering how much disdain we’ve seen that Steve’s mother has for him, almost to the point of completely dismissing him, you can’t help but read a little into this. With “Steve Brule” having written this pilot, it’s entirely possible he’s subconsciously using this show as a way to connect with his mom and feel like she actually loves him. Granted, that’s giving a lot of credit to this ridiculous thing, but the worlds and characters that Tim and Eric have created deserve that degree of credit. They’re very smart people and I wouldn’t put something as deep as that past them.

In typical Tim and Eric fashion, the standard pilot does take a twisted turn in the final act, with Brown the butcher having some fairly inappropriate ways of dealing with Daisy’s brother (murdering him and selling his meat as horse meat, for one). Steve bargains for the boy’s life and manages to teach him a lesson at the same time. This abrupt angle worked for me (and it sometimes doesn’t with them), and if this is how the show goes about morality, that’s kind of great.

While certainly not the best thing that Tim and Eric have put out recently (I’d say this ranks about on par with most of Bedtime Stories and a little less impressive than the last season of Check It Out!), it’s still expertly assembled and conveys what it’s trying to. Which again, is mostly the spectacle that this thing exists at all. These guys wanted to make a silly pilot staring a fictional character, and they succeeded. It’s also encouraging to see more of these one-off specials airing on Adult Swim, with Gelman’s Dinner With Family airing not long ago as well. Even if Tim and Eric don’t have a show on the network at the end of the day, it’s nice to think that we could still be getting a random Spaghett pilot or something down the road. 

These guys have a lot of characters that could be turned into bagboys. 

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Rating:

3.5 out of 5