Daryl mashes Voice GPS, Knight Rider, the aforementioned HAL and an ample dash of Stephen King’s Christine into a volatile in-car cocktail, the devil on your driver’s side shoulder. Daryl’s friend-turned-victim is Ted, the mini-van driving, generic white-collar Joe just trying to lead a normal, if mildly adulterous, life along with his wife Judy (the perfectly cast Michele Scarabelli, who appropriately enough, had a part in the Leslie Neilsen bomb 2001: A Space Travesty).
Daryl is the in-car and phone accessible voice-assistance product that helps Ted back into the van he’s locked himself out of, but from there it’s mostly downhill, questioning his failure to signal, his failure to return a shopping cart, and growingly severe infractions.
OnCar’s superb comedic writing is provided by Ron Corcillo and, get this, Russ Carney of America, who also provides the voice of the mischievous Daryl (Corcillo’s writing filmography is limited, while Carney’s has been empty until now).
Episode 1’s ‘Dial 0 for Daryl’ has him (Daryl) escorting grandpa, via headphones, to butt-slap a mother tending to her baby down the street. In episode 3’s ‘Good Vibrations,’ Ted asks Judy what she’s doing buzzing and jostling underneath the covers: “Uh, uh, just reading,” she says. “You don’t own any books,” replies Ted. Cut to Judy, looking exasperated and peeking out from the foot-side covers on their heavy wooden sleigh bed, the adjacent bookshelf empty save for a few knickknacks on the upper shelves. You can guess who’s behind the sparks beneath the sheets.
The series is anchored by experienced character/bit actor Bob Clendenin, so character actor-y that you might think he was just plucked from the emerging web video pool. His aesthetic/cosmetic rough edges bring a perfect pitch to everyman Ted, and we love him for, and despite his begrudging morals.
I’m almost embarrassed to say that I’d never heard of Clendenin, and barely recognized him (his credit list is 69 long but mostly bit parts on programs I wouldn’t call the best of mainstream TV, spanning from Caroline in the City to Felicity to Scrubs to most recently a starring role on 10 Items or Less), but now I’m glad I know the man’s work.
With Daryl returning to dependable friend and savior by the end of the final episode and Clendenin possibly attending to TV duties soon, one wonders whether Daryl from OnCar has a future. I hope so. There’s still room for Ted and Daryl to have some adventures before Daryl locks the pod bay doors and Ted asks him to sing Daisy.