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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

NTSF: SD: SUV::: “Unfrozen Agent Man”

Illustration for article titled NTSF: SD: SUV::: “Unfrozen Agent Man”
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I was mildly disappointed when NBC cancelled Go On back in May, mostly because of a high concentration of non-Matthew Perry cast members that I have great affection for: Tyler James Williams, Piper Perabo, Seth Morris, John Cho, and especially Brett Gelman. I encourage any and all television shows to cast Gelman in a guest role and any and all pilots to give him a shot at being a regular. The dude just exudes funny, whether as a dumb-as-rocks co-worker on Eagleheart or a threatening Mr. Gilbert on the MTV remake of The Inbetweeners (arguably the only good part of that series), to memorable guest stints on The League and Happy Endings. He’s the best part of “Unfrozen Agent Man,” and I’m a little dejected about that, considering how surprised I was to see Robert Forster show up

In what is ostensibly a rip-off of Austin Powers, making this a parody of a parody of government agent films, a surprise birthday celebration for a high security prison guard leads to the escape of Hoffstein, a cryogenically frozen hippie criminal mastermind. In response, NTSF wakes up Booth Whitman (Forster), one of their top agents from the ‘60s, to track down Hoffstein and bring him to justice once again. His crime? “Encouraging women and African-Americans to vote.” So yeah, the 1960s were a different time filled with rampant racism and sexism, and NTSF would like to provide plenty of opportunities to laugh about that.

But instead of spinning Gelman off into a plot where he dreams of San Diego domination or something akin to a supervillain, NTSF is smart enough to set him wandering through the streets to encounter just how corporatized many of the things he held dear have become. He approaches a food co-op to hide from NTSF, where he rages once he realizes that it’s now a corporately owned chain, and exasperatedly walks away from a legal marijuana dispensary. All of the counter-culture he embraced in the ‘60s has been erased, and the inequity he protested against has (on the surface) come to pass, but it leaves Hoffstein as a hippie unable to adapt to being in the mainstream. A guy in the park tells him to buzz off so he can concentrate on his “blog about artisanal wallpaper,” which makes Hoffstein feel like he “ate the brown acid.” The choice to make the character feel entirely out of place in modern society instead of a Weather Underground or far-left terrorist serves to squeeze more laughs out of Gelman than a standard villain.

On the other side of the spectrum, Whitman can’t stop griping about how all the social progress, like “organic groceries and women wearing pants,” signals how the world has passed him by. Forster basically gets to walk around spouting out antiquated cultural standards, quipping about Trent’s mangy, uncouth haircut (by stodgy ‘60s standards, at least) and constantly ogling Piper. June Diane Raphael’s character has probably been the most underserved so far this season, and making her fall for a guy that treats her like a secretary he can harass with no impunity doesn’t really work. But Gelman’s brief arc to realizing he doesn’t belong in the present makes the material that didn’t land at least bearable.

Stray observations:

  • There is only topic on which I trust the word of Chester Hanks, and that is on the all-around douchebaggery of Matthew Perry.
  • On my screener the opening location was stylized “Nick Cannon Cryo-Jail,” which is still just a fantastic way to name buildings.
  • Sticking to his character, Gelman refuses to fight Forster, so they just chase each other around the Cryo-Jail.