Have you ever seen the first season of Seinfeld, or even The Simpsons for that matter? They are both kind of terrible. But when you watch them you do see glimpses of what they eventually became. I’m not about to put Agents of Cracked on cracked.com in the esteemed category of those shows, but it’s possible there is something here worth looking at. Maybe.The show, created by Abe Epperson, Daniel O’Brien and Michael Swaim, is relatively terrible for the first six episodes with tiny bits of funny, or at least funny ideas tossed in there. However, I look at episode 7, ‘The Curse of the Idol’ and things seem to be beginning to coalesce. Somewhat.
Michael Swaim, former host of CrackedTV, playing Michael Swaim, is a raw, exciting talent throughout the series. The character Swaim is a hapless idiot-savant, a kind of Hunter S. Thompson as played by Bill Murray in Where the Buffalo Roam, only dumber. Way dumber. At the moment, Swaim-the-actor’s energy and delivery make me want so badly to guffaw at his antics, yet most of the time I find myself left with my mouth open and nothing coming out. Like an aborted sneeze, let’s say. Though I’m absolutely sure, over time, as he fills the shoes of Swaim-the-idiot, he will have me rolling on the floor.
Dan O’Brien, Assistant Editor of Cracked, playing Dan O’Brien in the show isn’t quite as exciting…at first. At times it felt like he was channeling Woody Allen and failing miserably. O’Brien, playing the ‘good cop’ to Swaim’s ‘bad cop’ is a geeky, buttoned up babysitter for Swaim. He plays the straight man a little too straight to the point of dullness all the way until the seventh episode, and then…the seventh episode happens. But we’ll get into that later.
What I want to discuss with you right now is why I have not mentioned what the show is about. The reason? I’m not totally sure what the show is about. I know it takes place in the cracked offices. I know that these guys create content for cracked.com. And I know that they are given tasks like ‘brand development’ from their mysterious boss, The Chief. But the jobs and stories feel so random and the fact that they are described in the cracked.com’s ‘About’ section as being ‘trained to handle anything the world of internet comedy throws at them’ makes me totally confused sometimes as to what the hell I’m watching.
I’ll explain by example: the first episode, Swaim’s eighth partner has died and Dan is assigned to be his new partner. Partner in what, you ask? I have no clue. In the second episode, Swaim spends the majority of it coming up with lame nicknames for his new partner while Dan tries to figure out who the best Care Bear was for The Chief. Any ideas what’s going on yet? Me neither. The third ep has Swaim upset because his readers and viewers of his vids have called him a fag. And THAT’S when I realized they are content providers for cracked. Wow. Third ep? That’s not too good. And when I finally did realize that I also realized that I just didn’t care about them or what they did and I wanted to stop watching, but alas that’s what I get paid for, lucky you.
And then I got to seven (above). It’s performance review time for the boys and the total absurdity and burgeoning character dynamic between our fine fellows finally becomes clear, or, clearer. And O’Brien, believe it or not, steals the show as he is tortured by The Chief (whose voice is incidentally always disturbingly distorted as he sits in a dark room with only a backlight, and, no, I don’t know why.). I won’t go into too many details here but I’ll just say that O’Brien gets a target drawn on his forehead, is branded with a hot iron and fights himself in the ‘Cave of Trials’ all during his performance review, while Swaim has an office barbecue…in the office. It’s non-stop absurdity and hilarity. And everyone nails their part and suddenly I’m seeing the insane potential of this messy little show.
Production value is fine throughout, set design is very rough sometimes which works sometimes and other times it’s distracting. There are seven eps showing and seven more to go, rolling out in a seemingly random pattern until the end of this month. The show benefits from cracked’s tried and true interface allowing you to share anywhere, comment freely and easily, etc. And I have to say, the player worked like a champ on both computers I watched it on, which is not always the case. I’m also guessing that it’s cracked’s loyal fanbase that brings in the tens of thousands of views the show enjoys. Not to mention the seemingly constant barrage of positive commentary.
Commentary which is a little bit unfounded as far as I’m concerned, until, of course that lovely seventh ep. And so, in the end, I guess my feeling is, you should watch the show starting at ep seven. It’s kind of smart in a weird way and if it continues to grow it could become some kind of absurdist wonder of the web, an interesting addition to the plethora of office comedies in existence. I can only hope that the writers would please begin to clarify exactly what the show is about and what exactly these guys do, because right now, it’s just a little too loosey goosey and only serves to diminish what could be a very funny and fun buddy office comedy.