“There’s nothing illegal about whacking—we all do it. But we can’t let our pipes get filled up with gunk.”
December is so often associated with the saccharine storytelling of holiday specials. Tim and Eric, alternative comedian extraordinaires, have certainly had a fun time getting into the holiday spirit in the past – their Chrimbus Special is still a personal favorite of mine. “Tornado” isn’t really a Holiday Special in spite of it being billed as one. There’s a single scene that takes place over Christmas time, but other than that the yuletide is surprisingly sparse. That being said though, the special does have an overwhelming theme of the importance of family and togetherness, which is certainly a staple of the holiday season, so I’ll give the guys a break.
Inevitably “Tornado” will be compared to “Sauce Boy,” the other half-hour offering that the duo served up this year on Bedtime Stories. Whether they intentionally meant for these two pieces to be held up against each other or not, it’s inevitably going to be done due to the proximity of their airings, and the drought of Bedtime Stories that’s otherwise accompanied them.
As far as “Tornado” goes, it knocks “Sauce Boy” out of the water in nearly every sense as the unpredictable filmmaking duo deliver a ridiculous, foreboding, romantic installment of their series. The special begins with an interesting prologue piece where a pivotal moment from Matt Peters’ (Zach Gilford) childhood is explored, when his predilection with rampant masturbation into the toilet began in the first place.
Flash forward a dozen years, give or take, and a now grown up Matt works an office job, hungry for approval and yearning to fit in as the inner politics of Don Dorx’s company begin to shift from foods to the mobile market. It’s through Dorx Mobile that Tim and Eric share a cute cameo as themselves here—a rarity for the series—with them acting as directors for a Dorx spot. Soon however Dorx is the last thing on Matt’s mind when he learns that a tornado has ravaged his family home and taken out everything in their possession. The devastation of the tornado is crippling, but what’s even more staggering from the natural disaster is what it ends up bringing to the attention of Matt’s family.
The prologue from Matt’s childhood that we saw earlier unsurprisingly connects to the events of the recent tornado in St. Charles County. As a result of Matt never being able to give up his favorite hand hobby, the family’s septic tank slowly accumulated his semen through the years, and now said septic tank has been ripped loose and set asunder St. Charles County. “People are smothered in your seed,” Matt is told, as his family begins to get into the specifics and speculate the volumetric density (we’re talking river-levels here) of the young man’s ejaculate.
Even before the episode reaches this point (which it doesn’t take long to arrive at), the direction feels awfully clear with all of this reading like an extended piece of sketch comedy. Stark tragedy and sheer excess paired with the details of Matt’s semen continue to be used to build comedy and the dry atmosphere and tense tone through all of it works in the episode’s favor. This semen snafu continues to lead to escalating trouble for the community until the ultimate brash decision is reached that Matt’s testicles must be removed. It’s the only fitting punishment that makes sense for all of this. It’s the right deadpan direction to play everything. Lance Reddick spouting tornado severity rhetoric while shifting into spunk speak is also never a bad thing.
Matt’s unorthodox punishment comes at the behest of Father Krang (a very welcome Kurtwood Smith), and as his surgery begins to go under way it becomes clear that the Father’s thought process is very Old Testament. Instantly you can tell that there’s a lot more going on with Krang than meets the eye, with the idea of him even having some sort of evil stranglehold on the community not being out of the question.
One of “Tornado’s” greatest assets is the clip at which it moves along. While it felt like “Sauce Boy” squandered a lot of its double runtime, “Tornado” never really slows down and Matt’s balls are gone well before the halfway mark. What follows, in very typical Tim and Eric fashion, is simply watching the shattered remains of Matt’s life as he lives with his punishment and tries to make something of what he still has. Gilford does a great job at making Matt easy to empathize with and actually care about his plight. We’re hurt to see his life go to hell, and we share his beleaguered nature as the world continues to turn on him. If he gave a detached, unrealistic performance all of this would feel a lot hollower. Matt is soon pushed to his breaking point, and when Reddick’s character offers him a proposition to “fix” all of this, it quickly becomes clear that repercussions will soon begin to come into play.
Just like “Sauce Boy” indulged in mafia and mob film clichés with a precise filmic eye to sell all of it, “Tornado” can’t help but play with romantic comedy tropes, sappy montages, and meet cute opportunities, all of which help add validity to this silliness. It’s clear that Tim and Eric are not taking any of this seriously, and so actually servicing it up with a super on-point presentation style and delivering what’s ostensibly a real romantic comedy with the most contrived of obstacles is kind of brilliant. “Tornado” is also aided by the creeping sense of dread that’s felt through it all. Whenever Father Krang appears, you know the other shoe is about to drop, and seeing Matt get further with Lucy (Rosa Salazar) can’t help but instill the fear that it’s only going to fall apart.
The final moments of the episode are some truly wonderful scenes that I won’t ruin here for anyone. They’re the perfect ending to this twisted parable and they contain the full impact that Tim and Eric have become known for punctuating their odd little stories with. “Tornado” still isn’t the best thing that Tim and Eric have produced (and still probably isn’t the most accomplished episode of Bedtime Stories to date), but it marks another instance of them maturing as filmmakers and attempting something a little more professional. The Special still might largely move in the direction that a lot of their stories do, but it remains to be an entertaining story from start to finish that keeps you uneasy for nearly the entire duration. It’s unclear if this will be the end of Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories with no further installments currently being on the table, but with what this and “Sauce Boy” had to offer I certainly hope this isn’t the end of the surreal series.
I don’t think Dorx Mobile would be able to handle the social media blowout that would cause.
The “Tornado” Holiday Special of Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories will air on December 4th at 11pm on Adult Swim