In 1980 ABC aired a show called Mr. and Mrs. Dracula. It was a situational comedy about a husband, a wife, their two kids, and a pet bat named Gregor. Oh, and they were all vampires, but maybe you guessed that from the title? The show was canceled after one episode. A year later they re-shot the pilot and then canceled it again.
“Why do I bring this up,” you ask? Well, because to me Mr. and Mrs. Dracula had to have been the lowest rated TV show of the 80’s.
The new web comedy from Fox’s 15 Gigs, Slacker P.I. proves me wrong, albeit fictitiously. Its premise is unique: two pot smokers, Bo and Wyatt, are so obsessed with reruns of “the lowest rated show of the 1980’s,” Derringer P.I., that it’s main character Derringer becomes an imaginary friend. Or put more simply, “what if Matt Houston came out of your television set?”
Now THAT is a premise. It sure beats the hell out of “so there’s this family, right? Only… vampires.”
When problems emerge, Derringer appears from out of thin air to help solve them, as do Members Only jackets on the backs of Bo (Thom Sigsby) and Wyatt (Tanner Thomason). Here the show is at its best. Derringer (Charles Pecocaro) is the quintessential scene stealer.
The first three episodes begin with a scene from the show within a show, Derringer P.I.. Derringer is a hard-boiled ace detective who kicks ass, runs through alleys in L.A., and is obsessed with ‘Nam. In the opening of episode 3 he headbutts a perp 10 times in the face. In another episode he plays hard to get with a blind woman on a rooftop, bumping past her to make his exit.
A case can be made that Derringer is all the show you need, but the trope of an 80’s detective spoof probably works better in these small doses. As for Bo and Wyatt, the problem with slackers is that they don’t do much (and never have gas money). It’s not until the show finds its footing that these two characters sharpen into view.
In fact, starting with episode 4: “Partners” the writing feels more confident. Instead of opening with a scene from Derringer we meet Wyatt’s drug dealing cousin Larry, a white rapper under house arrest who asks the boys to confront a rival dealer as part of a turf war. Derringer still makes an appearance, toward the middle of the show, but unlike in previous episodes, I wasn’t checking my watch until he did.
In the end, what’s most important is that Slacker is funny. It has chops. By and large the jokes work. Bo and Wyatt’s banter is not unique, but when Wyatt decides he has to tape his eyebrows in order to look more Chinese, followed by a shot of an actual Chinese man as he checks his reflection in the mirror, I am fully on board.
At its best Slacker can be that irreverent and surprising. Judging by the momentum of each new episode the best gags have yet to come. Check it out on Hulu.