“I’m the king of the ‘sac! Say it!”
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim aren’t for everyone. They push limits beyond limits, subvert at their every whim, and truly stretch the boundaries of what is even considered to be comedy.
The prospect of the duo having a new series on Adult Swim, Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories, the home that made them famous, is very exciting for a lot of people. What’s even more so is the idea that this series is going to be an anthology show in nature; that every week is a “Thursday Night Movie” presenting you with an entirely new tale starring Tim, Eric, or any of the increasingly deep well of their players. While that concept alone offers much potential here, this “premiere” episode (if you don’t include their Halloween Special with Zach Galiafianakis from over a year ago) isn’t exactly their best episode.
This installment, “Hole,” sees Eric as Dennis “Murph” Murphy, who has just moved to Pine Street with his family, with Tim’s Brenner acting as the de facto welcome wagon. Brenner seems pretty set on Dennis attending his Guys’ Night, with him being even more concerned with dinner etiquette and what exactly is going to be on the menu as everyone cheers on the Fish. As Murphy doesn’t reciprocate this feeling, Brenner begins to slowly unravel, becoming more and more insistent on the idea of “community,” everyone being together, and that he is the true king of the ‘sac.
Tim and Eric have spoken recently about how this show is going to be presenting some upsetting, scary stuff, with the title “Nightmare Stories” being a more appropriate moniker. While they’ve slowly been heading in this direction, this episode doesn’t feel like the best or strongest illustration of this, and I’m kind of curious as to why they chose it to be the one to kick things off.
Some of my favorite Tim and Eric material are the shorts they produced for HBO’s Funny or Die Presents, and while this twisted take on suburbia feels like something right out of that show (“Father and Son” and “The Terrys” are two, better, examples that immediately come to mind), nothing here exactly shines too brightly and it’s a little confusing why they’ve wanted to return to 11-minute blocks of storytelling after expanding so much recently.
There’s still plenty here that works. The shot of Dennis coming out of his home to the hordes of flies that are coming from the rotting turkey that greets him is expertly shot. As is the Blue Velvet-esque zoom into the turkey carcass, and the infestation that’s going on inside of it. It still feels like Brenner’s hazing of Dennis could have gone further though, rather than spending time on things like over-bashing a windshield or over-explaining a dinner menu (not that these don’t have their charms, while also being vintage Tim and Eric).
There’s no doubt that the duo is commenting on the darkness that brews underneath all of this community (just like Blue Velvet does). Brenner’s friends that we saw at his place are even borderline monsters as they bray and holler at minutiae, chanting out platitudes. Is this what Brenner wants Dennis to become? Heidecker’s character becomes increasingly disturbing as we see that he has no wife, nor does her have half the things that he says that he does.
As all of this comes to a close, Dennis is forced to get in his own grave, which he’s seen Brenner digging for most of the episode. This is the way you’d expect the episode to go as soon as you see that hole being dug, with there being no way Dennis could have won this in the end. His family even joins in on the burying at the end, sealing his fate. Tim and Eric haven’t hidden the fact that this show will heavily borrow from The Twilight Zone, and there’s no topic more qualified as an equalizer than that of community. As the dirt begins to fall then, was Pine Street a purgatory that Dennis needed to work out his demons? Maybe his wireless network integration job wasn’t going as well as he let on. Perhaps in spite of how idyllic Dennis’ life looked, there were still problems underneath it all that someone was going to dig up, whether it was Brenner or someone else. You could even make the argument that Dennis is digging his own grave at the end. That Brenner doesn’t even exist necessarily, and is merely the negative traits and manifestation of the stresses and rules of suburbia.
Or maybe it’s just a weird neighbor digging a pre-mature grave for the less-weird newcomer that’s come to town. Not every episode here is going to be “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” but hopefully next week’s entry will be a more solid offering of what this anticipated show is capable of.