Halfway through its third season, Comedy Bang! Bang! goes out with a bang (bang). After all that’s come before it, it should be no surprise that it has come to this. Of course the summer finale includes time travel.
If there’s one thing to take away from Comedy Bang! Bang!’s third season summer finale, “Josh Groban Wears A Suit And Striped Socks,” it’s probably this: That title really does bury the lede. The Comedy Bang! Bang! title naming is clearly a very intricate process, so it would never betray itself by stating the actual premise in the title. But going into this episode, the automatic assumption isn’t that this will end up being a time travel adventure. In fact, early in the cold open, I would have sworn the episode would either be about Scott’s with amnesia or a new personality (specifically a “cool” version of Scott that wears sunglasses indoors and speaks jive).
If there’s another thing to take away from it, that would be the fact that Scott Aukerman and his writers really know what they’re doing. Even in its weaker episodes, it’s always been apparent that whatever genre or trope Comedy Bang! Bang! decides to tackle is one that the writers are at least very aware of—love it or hate it. However, this season, Comedy Bang! Bang! has really stepped up its game in regards to the conventions it chooses to take on. These aren’t just references for references’ sake; they’re a biting deconstruction of these concepts that other shows just couldn’t get away with.
The cold open itself is an excellent set-up for the episode, drawing immensely from the world of classic multi-camera sitcoms. It’s all there: the laugh track that immediately makes its presence known, there’s Chekhov’s sandbag, and the set-up of the Reggie’s father being bumped off The Sullivan Hunchy Show (yes, the Sullivan) and never achieving his dream of becoming a rock and roll superstar.
With the sitcom coming such a long way, there may actually be living people who have never seen the trope of a conk on the head (or an electric shock to the system) leading to amnesia, change in personality, or time travel that was only just a dream (or was it?). It’s amazing that minor brain damage was such a common trope at one time, but at said time, that was just the ridiculous nature to be expected and accepted in sitcoms. Comedy Bang! Bang! also expects such acceptance of ridiculous nature, but unlike shows like sitcoms that earnestly used the trope—Boy Meets World, Gilligan’s Island, and Charles In Charge, to name a small few—Comedy Bang! Bang! makes a point of observing how absurd it all is. Besides, what’s a little brain damage in the long run?
Once “Josh Groban Wears A Suit And Striped Socks” really gets into the time travel, it’s essentially the greatest hits of this trope. Scott immediately addressing the fact that he has “quantum leapt” into the 1960s declares that no references are off limits, and eventually, the episode is just spouting off references specifically for people to catch. You got to laugh, because “your kids are gonna love it.” It gets to the point where hypnotist/plate-spinner Marty Sheesh (Josh Fadem) gives the obligatory time travel “logic” explanation: time travelers are not vulnerable to hypnotism, because they’re already cheating time by virtue of being time travelers. It makes sense in the way that Comedy Bang! Bang! (and time travel in pop culture) ever makes sense: It doesn’t but it does. Or it does but it doesn’t.
The premise of the episode doesn’t lend itself to having any out of studio segments, and for the maybe the first time this season, the lack of segments isn’t actually a negative. While it would be amusing to see a ’60s Scott as Sullivan doing one of this man on the street segment, it would have actually been harder to suspend belief; the point of this time travel spell is always to achieve the endgame of Reggie’s father achieving fame, which wouldn’t be a component of any additional segments. Having Scott simply focus on getting through the show to save the day and make Jimick Wattersmith’s (and everyone else in the ’60s) life better is all the episode really needs, and the fact that it’s aware of that is what makes it work.
Also making the episode work is the aforementioned guest, Josh Groban. With this and his appearances on The Crazy Ones (especially his first one) this season, Groban continues to prove himself as a solid comedic actor. Having celebrities who aren’t particularly known for their comedic stylings—like Tony Hawk this season or Jessica Alba last—has been pretty hit or miss for Comedy Bang! Bang!, but so far this season, it’s been all hit. Groban time traveling via a Pleasantville-style remote control (or a Stay Tuned remote control, assuming he has satellite television) is probably tied with his attempted performance of Scott’s song in this episode, but there’s not actually a dull moment from the singer in this episode. While someone like a Lizzy Caplan or a Zach Galiafianakis probably would have made more sense for a finale episode, Josh Groban is without a doubt a solid choice.
If this season really has been an experiment in unearned self-congratulations, then this summer finale is the ultimate pat on the back. Scott becoming the time traveling savior, the Marty McFly or Sam Beckett, is the cherry on top of this third season sundae. Comedy Bang! Bang! is a show that’s all about expecting the unexpected, and it’s comforting to know that, three seasons in, Scott Aukerman and company haven’t run out of steam. For that alone, maybe the self-congratulations actually is earned.
- Scott’s Onscreen Credit: I suppose Sullivan Hunchy would be the credit, if any.
- Which was better: Scott muttering “piece of shit” at Groban or Scott muttering “piece of shit” at Weird Al?
- Is it safe to assume Sullivan is as big as he is in this universe because of his onscreen murder? If so, that really messes with the space-time continuum, doesn’t it?
- Even in the ’60s, it’s not cool to call Russell Crowe out for being a jerk. But commenting on Mick Jagger being “so young” warrants a “You won us back!” from the crowd.
- Color me surprised (after you black-and-white me surprised) The Sullivan Hunchy Show didn’t go the racism route over Jimick being bumped (and then with his Jimi Hendrix-inspired performance). The Charles Manson (Neil Campbell) reveal made up for it though!
- The moment that got the biggest belly laugh from me was actually Scott kicking Eric to get knocked out by the sandbag again.
- “I have to go back. Reggie, I have to go back!” Hopefully that’s not the closest Comedy Bang! Bang! gets to parodying a Lost episode.
- There are too many great moments in this episode to write about, but really, that’s been the case for every episode so far this season. Luckily the comments section exists.
- See you all whenever Comedy Bang! Bang! returns!