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Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter transforms from horror parody to monstrously good comedy

Stephanie March, Scott Adsit, Jon Glaser (Adult Swim)
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The energetically loopy Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter gives creator and star Jon Glaser another outlet to ply his signature comedic obnoxiousness. While Glaser can play more than grating, buffoonish assholes—his hyper-sensitive former addict neighbor Laird on Girls is actually sort of sweet—his wheelhouse is the sort of braggadocios-yet-pathetic blowhard exemplified by Jeremy Jamm, the city council nuisance Glaser portrayed on Parks And Recreation. Playing up his offbeat looks—that toothy mouth always tipping between contemptuous sneer and abashed grimace; that wild poof of unruly hair radiating out like wiry stink lines—Glaser gleefully makes himself the one guy at the party you pray isn’t going to hit on you by showing off his karate moves.


As Neon Joe, freelance werewolf hunter come to save the comically quaint town of Garrity, Vermont (a.k.a. “the B&B capital of America”), Glaser modifies his usual runty boastfulness with a hilariously slushy Cajun accent, eyepatch, twin knife-guns, mohawk, prominent werewolf-claw facial scars, and a ratty head-to-toe fluorescent green combat ensemble that’s as comically offensive as anything his dickish would-be monster hunter says. The pileup of über-macho accessories adorning its hero sets the tone for Neon Joe’s first two episodes as a whole, with the seemingly sleepy Garrity quickly revealed as having not only a lycanthrope problem and a variably eccentric cast of characters (played to specifically strange perfection by the likes of Scott Adsit, Steve Little, Damian Young, and Stephanie March), but also enough buried, increasingly absurd secrets to make Wayward Pines look like Mayberry.

That eagerness to depart from straight horror parody to follow seemingly random tangents (the Jaws notes of the pilot give way to a full-on Misery theme in the second episode) works in Neon Joe’s favor. Not that the Buffy/Angel/Supernatural goofs aren’t consistently funny in the first two episodes, but that sort of well-worn target might get tired if not for Glaser’s clear plan to immediately abandon it in favor of a series of conceptual detours. It’s funny watching one of Glaser’s fellow Parks And Rec alums arrive in Garrity (as himself) and blithely and prosaically extoll the night’s “big, beautiful, completely round full moon” before being summarily turned to wolf chow, but it’s equally funny to see Neon Joe get sidetracked trying to alleviate a new friend’s suicidal depression by unveiling an elaborately silly fake werewolf attack scheme dubbed “Operation Can’t-Go-Wrong.” It’s reminiscent of the late, lamented Eagleheart, another action-hero TV spoof-goof where, too, the best jokes had less to do with the specific show being parodied (Walker, Texas Ranger in that case) than with whatever absurdist riffs that starting point inspired.

Having gathered a supporting cast of skilled scene-stealers, Glaser smartly cedes the spotlight for them to do their thing. In a town of loons, it’d be easy for Neon Joe to swamp under all the accumulated eccentricity, except that the likes of Adsit’s barkeep and Little’s frustrated neighborhood watch captain both have uniquely specific hangups that make them distinct. (For example: Despite everything going on in Garrity—werewolf and otherwise—Adsit’s Cocoa keeps amusingly obsessing over how much better his fake werewolf disguises are than everyone else’s.) Law & Order: SVU’s March, playing Garrity’s mayor, is presented as if she’s going to be the show killjoy, only to deadpan her way through her own odd reactions to everything around her. And Young (who played Lisa Kudrow’s long-suffering husband on The Comeback) brings a hysterically contained sleaziness to the town doctor, turning werewolf attacks into opportunities for inappropriate proposals and some genuinely laugh-out-loud line readings.

As Neon Joe himself, Glaser provides a wonderfully silly and flexible center to the show, his boorish alpha male behavior not so much softened by his manifest inadequacies as subsumed into the show’s multifaceted, shaggy silliness. As with most Glaser projects, there’s always the danger that his deliberately off-putting sensibility will wear out its welcome—Jamm’s repeated loathsomeness grew tired on Parks And Rec—but, as with his similarly ludicrous and inventive Adult Swim series Delocated, Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter appears, in these first two episodes, to have hit the right tone. Glaser’s hinted that the miniseries—being shown on five consecutive nights on Adult Swim—could find an extended afterlife should enough people watch it. For such a niche show, it wouldn’t take much to give Glaser and company a chance to expand the show’s deftly dopey world to even sillier horizons.


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