If Millersville, the fake popular, fake show anchoring this episode, was real, I have a feeling the A.V. Club would cover it en masse. Easily the best skit of an uneven episode, Millersville is rich in both breadth and depth. The crowds, the shirts, the slogan, the spoilers, it felt very much like a hybrid of Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Lost-style fandom, thrown into a ridiculous blender.

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For the Millersville skit, the actors of the fictional show come out holding awards and give a perfect parody of those boring Entertainment Tonight panel interviews. “Where’s the key?” is “Not Penny’s boat,” or whichever teasing catchphrase fans latch on to and assign too much meaning to. The magazine covers are aped directly from Rolling Stone and the clip is bombastically and hilariously bad. Dane Cook fanboying out just sitting next to the crew is a particularly nice touch.

The button on the skit is the fact that, even in the fictional Comedy Bang! Bang! world, the show does not exist. A cheeky response to the bandwagoners of critically-acclaimed, but low-rated shows (Mad Men says hello), Scott, Reggie, and Dane all reveal that they have never seen the show. The creators then reveal that they are actually the Garrison Valley Grifter Gang, a “trash reality show,” they trash talked a few minutes before. It is done so note-perfect, especially showing the final scene of the series where they give the fans exactly what they want, only to be accosted with cries of spoilers! Also, I really want that Millersville t-shirt. I am part of the problem.

The rest of the episode is hit or miss, which is unfortunate because the ideas are all there but suffer from a lack of quality execution—a rarity for this show. “Dane Cook Wears a Black Blazer and Tailored Pants” starts with a nowhere bit involving a circle of imaginary friends. None of these land solidly even if “Let’s go back to filming an empty chair and keyboard for 30 minutes,” is a funny line. The skit feels like an idea that looked good on paper but doesn’t translate. The loose theme of the episode are these circular revelations, from the TV show being a different show, to the infomercial, to the string of imaginary friends having imaginary friends. Again, it just does not hit for me. I wouldn’t mind seeing Big Squirrel again though (he’s nuts!).

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For his reputation as loud and…loud, Dane Cook is disappointingly low-key, playing against his stage persona to the detriment of the skits. Stand-ups never seem to do as well playing off Aukerman, whose energy is odd even with other improv actors. The characters of Planes versus amateur porn star game was funny, but the punch is obvious. It feels another guest could have really run with it while Cook walks slowly.

The script-reading skit is also tame, disappointingly so. I wanted Cook to get into it, to play it up, but he is so low-key, it borders on boring. The puns are there, as they often are on Comedy Bang! Bang!, but the delivery kills the entire skit for me. The dead weight of that skit rolls into some video game character impressions, and finally to Cook’s saving grace in this episode, a single line: “You look more like a bird and not like a man.” Ackerman does look like a bird and I giggled mercilessly as he flapped his arms. Vintage Bang! Bang! in its level of puerile absurdity, Aukerman sells it. And he seriously looks like a bird.

Save Millersville, the best skit of the night belongs to Watts, whose infomercials are genius, especially for anyone who grew up watching late-night television. First he’s an actor in an ITT Tech-esque infomercial, then he’s running a school for actors for ITT Tech informercials, then he’s a midnight lawyer for anyone who has an informercial acting business go under. It is hard to say enough about Watts as a comedian, but more than anything, he always picks the perfect tone for the situation. His physical comedy too, just the way he moves his body, works so well for these type of skits. Watts nails the absurdity and the undercurrent of gross mercantilism in those technical college commercials that still litter the airwaves. He teaches skills like having a conversation while walking down a hallway and using the mouse with one hand while stroking your chin with the other. Watts proves in “Dane Cook Wears a Black Blazer and Tailored Pants” that he is an integral key to Bang! Bang!’s success.

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If anyone wants to write the pilot for Millersville, I have some great ideas I’m kicking around. I think it could be big.

Stray observations:

  • Scott Aukerman is appropriately Binge Watcherman.
  • “I need you to be a little more monotone and I need to barely be able to understand what you’re saying.” -Good advice all around.
  • “Not the precise location of the key we’ve searching for this entire time?”
  • Fat Dong Sex Slave seems like it came from a Wu-Tang name generator.
  • “I guess I always wanted to be an arsonman.”

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