Tuesday, November 14, 2017

TV REVIEW: YouTube Red's 'Do You Want to See a Dead Body?'

YouTube Red will premiere its new original comedy series Do You Want to See a Dead Body? on Wednesday, November 15. The comedy stars Rob Huebel. 

Read on for my thoughts on the new comedy after screening its premiere episode.

My opinion of YouTube Red hasn't changed since my review of its new comedy Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television a few weeks ago. It's a service that represents no legitimate competition to the major streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. It's still just an experiment that is trying to figure itself out. But there just isn't the content to justify actually paying for it. It's exploring more high-end original series. And yet, it seems unlikely that the perception around the service will change before the Step Up show debuts or the Karate Kid sequel series does. Knowing that those projects are in the pipeline ensures that YouTube Red is something that I need to keep an eye on in this business. But it still hasn't gotten any traction at the moment. The Ryan Hansen show was positioned as a potential boost for the service. The first two episodes of that show are free to view for everyone. And unlike the other streamers, YouTube Red actually has the viewing statistics right there for everyone to see. Those numbers aren't all that encouraging. Since its October 25 debut, the first episode of Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television has been viewed 1.278 million times while the second episode has only been seen 345,000 times. That's a steep drop off. It makes it seem unlikely that many people wanted to get through that eight-episode season anytime soon and wanted to spend the money to do so. So, the needle doesn't seem to have moved. Do You Want to See a Dead Body? is unlikely to generate much attention either. It's just the latest show the service is trying as it attempts to figure out its specific brand.

If YouTube Red was a network that had time slots and paired certain comedies together, then Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television and Do You Want to See a Dead Body? would most definitely be paired together. They are similar in more than just having lengthy titles as well. It's easy to see the appeal to the executives at the streamer. They both feature a semi-recognizable actor who has had modest success - Ryan Hansen with Veronica Mars and Rob Huebel with Transparent and Childrens Hospital - playing a fictionalized version of himself as he teams up with various celebrity friends doing the same thing. They are very star driven vehicles for Hansen and Huebel. So, their particular comedy brand needs to be your cup of tea in order to enjoy the actual series. Of course, Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television has more structure to it. It's much more of a successful parody that is trying to do something. Ryan Hansen is paired with a police detective. That's a consistent feature of each episode even when the specific spoof is different. Rob Huebel has no constant scene partner in Do You Want to See a Dead Body? It's mostly just him riffing with a special guest star in each episode. It allows things to be a little looser and more of a sketch comedy concept. But it seems less fully formed as well.

The premise of Do You Want to See a Dead Body? is an intriguing idea with very minimum execution. It's funny to think about a guy whose only interest in life is showing dead bodies to his friends. In this case, the guy is a fictionalized Rob Huebel and his friends happen to be celebrities. In the first episode, Adam Scott and Terry Crews are the friends he brings along on these adventures. It's an intriguing concept because there is so much comedy to be mined from this idea. Everyone reacts to death differently. So, there is a lot of potential. But the show mostly squanders that right away because it's not entirely sure what it actually wants to do with this concept and these characters. It basically just wants to say that Huebel is crazy. That's about as deep as the show goes with the character. He's crazy and his friends just have to go along with this ridiculous adventure despite having better things to do out of fear of what might happen to him if they don't. It's very lackluster without being fun. The audience doesn't really know how to respond to anything that is going on. Should we see Huebel as a sympathetic character who isn't appreciated by the creative community in Hollywood? Or should we see him as a disaster who has a tendency of ruining people's lives just because he needs to feed this obsession of his? The show doesn't really dig into Huebel's psyche at all. That's a significant problem.

Plus, the joke of it all is the dead body at the center of the stories. But even with that, the actual story is very thin. The premiere is 25 minutes long and is basically cut into two similar stories. The first is Huebel showing a dead body to Adam Scott. The second is Huebel showing a dead body to Terry Crews. They are complete separate stories. Scott and Crews have different reactions upon seeing the dead bodies. But the stories really aren't about the bodies either. Huebel thinks they are cool. But there's no reason to understand why he thinks that. Or why he has a code of not calling the police after discovering these bodies. It's just a weird obsession that is clearly the premise for a sketch character. And yet, the show is playing it very realistically. It takes a long time to get going. And then, the actual payoffs are mostly just disappointing. This feels like the type of show that Funny or Die would produce. Funny or Die is actually one of the production companies on the series. There just isn't enough bite to the concept. There's no reason to see more. Every episode will feature Rob Huebel showing a dead body to a celebrity. There needs to be more variety to that concept. There needs to be more fun humor as well. The premiere is mostly going for a cringe-vibe. That can be very effective as well. The show just doesn't commit to it fully. As such, it's trapped in the middle where it's not exactly clear to anyone what is actually going on in the show and how the audience should view it. That just makes it lame in a way where no one should really concern themselves with watching more hoping that it'll get better over time.