Border Patrol – a six-episode series released on Comedy Central’s Atom.com created by Ben McMillan and Josh Greenbaum – is a strange, nihilistic Western that takes jabs at politically incorrect xenophobic Americans. It’s sending a lot of different signals, glossed over by charm.
The premise: three friends set out each weekend to guard America’s border from the illegals, aka Mexicans (I’ve heard of weekend warriors but this is ridiculous – hahaha). The first episode begins with their 47th week at the line, and they’ve yet to see a single illegal. So, they build an oasis, complete with Tecate and nachos to lure some lost, thirsty souls from our neighbors to the South into a red-blooded American trap.
The group is led by Rick Hayes (played by David Rogers, who has apparently been in tons of television pilots that weren’t picked up). He’s a good looking, level headed guy reminiscent of Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott in The Office – fearlessly leading his troops through the most pointless and absurd of tasks. Rick gives confessional style monologues for the camera, like Michael, that are at once charming in spirit and utterly depressing in the resoluteness of his delusion.
Rogers has two sidekicks, Chase Hothouse and Wandell Guebler. Hothouse (played by Michael Trotter) is sort of the Dwight of The Office (I started this analogy, I might as well finish it). He’s overly sincere and obviously a little cracked out. He’s a child playing a war game, taking everything way to seriously in a way that’s both endearing and really annoying.
Wandell Guebler (played by Tom Lenk – who you’ll recognize from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), is a more sensitive character with the occasional ability for emotional insight, but equally clueless. He’s kind of like Jim and Pam put together. He likes painting cutesy watercolors and seems to be around the other two not because he really cares about illegals, but because he can’t think of anything else to do. Through Wandell, we see the more depressing Office moments set against a barren desert wasteland.
In the forth episode we learn the real reason for Rick’s hatred for Mexicans, from, of course, Wandell, the sensitive one.
This leads to a climactic sixth episode, which takes place on the 52nd weekend, in Mexico.
You might be able to accuse the writers of simply thinking that Mexicans and fratacular “donkey show” jokes are funny, but the nuances in characterization gives the show a weight not seen in many internet shorts. Hayes, Wandell and Hothouse are not just goons whose misguided attempts at patriotism are laughably narrow minded – despite the offensive nature of their mission, the viewer sympathizes with each character’s flaws.
This is perhaps why the creators, Josh Greenbaum and Ben McMillan, are developing a 30-minute pilot for Comedy Central.
It would be great if that worked out, though Border Patrol is exactly the kind of show you hope to find on the net. I think the combination of subtlety and absurdity, reminiscent of Reno 911, seems to work best in short form, where strict adherence to a 22-minute plot structure isn’t necessary. Simpler plots allow for more digressions and the kind of haphazard character-based comedy that Border Patrol does so well.
For more Border Patrol goodness, check out this interview with Wandell and the creators at a ComicCon: