(Scott Aukerman, Tegan Quin, Sara Quin) (Photo: IFC)
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The cast and crew of Comedy Bang! Bang! go a little mad (we all go a little mad sometimes) creating “Tegan And Sara Wear Leather Jackets And Skinny Jeans,” and I love it to death. From performances and direction (by frequent Comedy Bang! Bang! director Stoney Sharp) to graphics, music, props, and lighting, everything works together to make this Hitchcockian pastiche rich and strange, starting with the glorious title sequence.

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It looks like Scott Aukerman’s gone a little mad himself—maybe just from boredom, since he’s immobilized with his leg in a cast. When crew members chip in to buy him a pair of binoculars to pass the time, he becomes obsessed with the new intern, Raymond (Michael “Mookie” Blaiklock). Admittedly, Raymond is kind of awful, with his unconscious sneer and his hunched posture and his condescending advice and the way his shoes squeak on the studio floor and his wet sniffle “and that voice, don’t get me started on his voice.”

No one else understands why Scott’s so suspicious of Raymond. “Weird Al” tells him, “Everybody loves that young man!”

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But not Scott. “That Raymond just creeps me out. I just think he’s a real psycho…otic person.” When Mitch (Mike Mitchell) has been missing for 90 seconds, it can only mean one thing: Raymond murdered Mitch! There’s no other explanation! (Al disagrees: “There are so many explanations.”)

(Scott Aukerman, Michael Blaiklock reflected in binoculars) (Photo: IFC)

While Scott’s looking into a murder, Tegan And Sara resolve a mystery for viewers. Inspired by Carly Simon revealing the subject of “You’re So Vain,” they divulge which ghost is the subject of “Walking With A Ghost.” It’s not, as Scott imagined, Casper The Friendly Ghost or even Hamlet’s dad. It’s not Patrick Swayze from Ghost. “Nor is it about Inky, Blinky, Pinky, or Clyde,” Sara says. Nope. In unison, they announce that “Walking With A Ghost” is about Slimer. It’s an appropriately spooky subject for a horror-tinged episode, and the Quin sisters’ dry, droll affect fits well into Comedy Bang! Bang! They’re unflappable in the face of Scott’s questions and his new obsession alike.

Did I say unflappable? Well, anyone could get flapped by Fourvel. His skittering entrance puts everyone on edge, and they don’t really calm down even after he alights on the sofa. Nor should they; sometimes he gets a little stabby. As Fourvel, Bobby Moynihan walks a knife’s edge (or, in this case, sits on a knife’s edge) between pitiable urchin and unhinged assailant. His peculiarities of enunciation and his sudden bursts into brutality always bring a jittery energy to the show. But my favorite aspect of this segment is his exasperated ramble at Scott as her demonstrates how a host should behave. “Jesus! ‘Hello, how are you, Scott?’ ‘Great, it’s good to see you, thank you for being a guest on my show.’”

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Rear Window inspires the plot of “Tegan And Sara Wear Leather Jackets And Skinny Jeans” and Scott name-checks Psycho in the opening, but the episode is jam-packed with Hitchcock references. The title cards touch on Vertigo, The Birds, and North By Northwest. The rooftop concert is an homage to The Birds, but the orchestral performance nods to the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The Herrmann-esque music throughout the episode is reminiscent not just of Psycho, but of other collaborations between composer and director. And the grubby appeal of voyeurism, which Scott succumbs to, is at the heart of many, many Hitchcock films.

The story is constructed with unusual care—unusual for the absurd, sometimes slapdash world of Comedy Bang! Bang!, anyhow. Scott’s certainty that he’s uncovered a murder should drive him straight to the authorities, but the episode disposes of that plot-stopping possibility efficiently. The friendly neighborhood police officer’s mention of recent peeping-tom complaints scares Scott out of making a report, leaving him to collect more evidence on his own. The faux commercial break stays on theme, advertising Sullivan’s binoculars, exclusively for perverts. The show even drops a red herring or two. When Al’s scene-obscuring shadow whisks past the camera as Scott mutters, “No one that weird is normal,” it’s a false hint that the culprit may be Scott’s bandleader.

(Scott Aukerman) (Photo: IFC)

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It’s a beautifully shot episode. Some of the visuals are overtly striking, like the cold, murky blue of the empty studio where Raymond stalks Scott, or the low-angle shot of Scott straining to reach the knife. But subtler touches, like Raymond’s image reflected in Scott’s binoculars or a shadow flickering past the camera, add up, keeping the brighter scenes of “Tegan And Sara Wear Leather Jackets And Skinny Jeans” consistent with its darkest moments.

The capper to this fun, funny, meticulously constructed tribute to the master of suspense is the explanation provided by Ray Wise, who pops in at the end. Whether you think the summary offered by Psycho’s psychiatrist is Hitchcock’s mockery of facile psychological explanations or a deflating attempt to wrap up a story for an audience untutored in matters of mental illness, it doesn’t matter here. The CB!B! crew’s awed chorus of “A psychologist!” captures the unearned air of authority embodied in that scene, whatever Hitchcock’s intent. Wise’s analysis, reproduced here in its entirety, is briefer than Psycho’s, but about as incisive:

Raymond wasn’t like normal people. He was… different. He looked different, he sounded different. In short, he was… a weirdo.

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Comedy Bang! Bang! isn’t like normal shows. It’s… different. In short, it’s a weirdo. A notorious weirdo! And as long as it keeps cranking out gems like this, I have a suspicion Aukerman and company will keep their audience spellbound, without a shadow of a doubt. [Cue “Funeral March Of A Marionette,” and we’re out.]

Stray observations

  • Scott’s on-screen credit: Jimmy Stewartman, complete with a text-shattering musical sting.
  • “So, what is it like being sisters and bandmates?” is Tegan And Sara’s version of “How do you juggle work and family?” That is to say, it’s their favorite question!
  • “Some people call it a rap break, but we call it an ill-mannered intrusion from some uninvited guests.”
  • Viewers curious about Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the title card of which is spoofed in the end credits) can check out my guest appearance discussing the mid-century anthology series with Noel Kirkpatrick and fellow A.V. Club writer Kate Kulzick.
  • “Hey, Al, do you know if this is Herrmann’s “Psycho Suite” or the popular APM music library track ‘Enigmatic Strings 12’?”
  • Twovel is wielding an axe with a gun taped to it.

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