In a universe as freeform, even anarchic, as that of Regular Show, Benson represents a much-needed authority figure. It may seem like a minor thing, but his presence provides the show its one vital bit of narrative structure. For all their insane antics, Mordecai and Rigby do indeed work at the park, and the show might well not work without Benson around to keep them vaguely focused on the task at hand. As such, Benson is arguably the show’s only truly essential character outside Mordecai and Rigby—you could remove any of the other supporting characters without really compromising the show’s premise, although admittedly you would lose much of the show’s charm without the rest of the park staffers—but that means he can’t be as easily multi-faceted as the other supporting characters. Pops is a lovable, eternally well-meaning space cadet; Skips is the immortal sage who is working at the park because, well, that’s just the sort of thing a hard-working regular guy is supposed to do; Muscle Man leads a rich, full life, at least by his standards, outside the context of his dead-end job; and Hi-Five Ghost is Hi-Five Ghost, which is the greatest honor of all.
Benson, on the other hand, is just the guy in charge because there needs to be a guy in charge, or else Mordecai and Rigby would get even less done than they do now. His constant, enraged threats to fire them (and everybody else, as seen in tonight’s second episode) provide episodes with some basic dramatic stakes, but he can’t ever actually follow through with his threats—at least not for longer than the course of a single episode—or else the show’s entire premise would collapse in on itself. That places some limits on who he can be; Benson needs to be the irascible, quick-tempered authority figure, because Regular Show needs someone to fulfill that role. There’s plenty of room for Benson to defy expectations and reveal hidden depths, but his established personality does place some limitations on how unexpected those hidden depths can really be. No matter what he does now or in the past, Benson still has to fundamentally be Benson, and it’s an open question whether that’s a terribly impressive thing to be.
Tonight’s doubleheader examines the park manager in considerable detail, with the first episode, “Blind Trust,” detailing what Benson thinks about Mordecai and Rigby and the second episode, “World’s Best Boss,” looking at how the park staff views Benson. “Blind Trust” never loses sight of the basic fact that makes palatable Mordecai and Rigby’s relationship with Benson, namely that for all their idiocy and laziness, they do typically mean well. In past episodes, Benson has been able to see that, although generally only after enduring one of their painful screw-ups; “Sandwich Of Death” is a good example of this type of story arc. But then, in both “Sandwich Of Death” and “Fool Me Twice,” the two major recent team-ups of these three characters, Benson had to do plenty of work just to save himself and his two slacker employees. In both of those cases, Benson was presented with a gauntlet of arduous physical challenges, and he simply put his head down and powered through them. That ability to just stop complaining and get on with the business at hand is what separates Benson from Mordecai and Rigby, and it’s what makes him simultaneously a hero and a massive pain in the ass in the Regular Show universe.
“Blind Trust” follows a similar formula, in that Benson again reveals himself to be far more athletic, agile, and generally hyper-competent than Mordecai and Rigby; they might be able to pull off a few of his moves, but likely not while also carrying two injured people. The episode’s setup is neatly structured, as Rigby is ever so slightly to blame for everything that happens—he is the one who lets Benson fall, even if it is entirely accidentally—but it’s really Benson who is the architect of his own destruction. Benson’s overriding flaw is that he’s too quick to judge, and he makes obstinate, irrational decisions when he’s angry with others. He bumps into that beehive and he wanders into that Sacred Animal Burial Ground because he’s convinced his employees are just messing with him. Benson’s status as an authority figure is useful here, as Mordecai and Rigby are afraid to intercede and overrule their boss.
Their thrilling escape from the enraged animal spirits is ingeniously constructed, as the means of their escape effectively isolates Benson’s and Mordecai’s respective greatest strengths. For Mordecai, it’s his ability to cope with the craziness unfolding around him, not to mention a flair for directing Benson’s action that was clearly honed by years of video games. For Benson, it’s his ability to shut up, focus, and just get done what needs to get done. Also, Rigby can’t talk, so that’s a plus from a teamwork perspective. Theirs is not the most painless of working partnerships—Pops really does need to get them to a hospital, posthaste—but it’s hard to argue with a relationship trusting enough to assuage that giant moose god. It’s perhaps worth quibbling over the precise structuring of the character arc, as Benson says he just can’t trust Mordecai and Rigby just seconds before the former says the only way they can escape is if he trusts them. That’s moderately sloppy writing, but their final fall, in which they make amends and declare their love for one another, tends to make up for it.
The most innovative part of “World’s Best Boss” comes right at the beginning, as Benson’s daily routine—which mostly involves getting everyone else out of trouble—is reduced to its iconic essentials and scored to a cool beat. This opening montage is such a radical departure from the show’s normal openings that I honestly thought something might be wrong with the audio. The rest of the episode feels infinitely more conventional, as the gang teams up to get Benson a mug celebrating him as the World’s Best Boss. Indeed, most of “World’s Best Boss” reduces to a fairly standard Regular Show runaround, as the gang goes off on some mildly pointless quest and then ultimately proves its collective mettle in an absurd fight sequence.
What elevates this familiar plotting is the episode’s deft character dynamics. With the possible exception of Skips (and Hi-Five Ghost, but I think he officially doesn’t count), it’s possible to get a detailed understanding of just why each Park staffer wants to get that mug for Benson. For Pops, it’s the right thing to do, and he takes the lead perhaps because of his own sense of familial duty, what with being the son of the park’s owner. Mordecai and Muscle Man recognize Benson’s value and like him well enough to go along with it, although Mordecai in particular seems to be doing this at least partially because he wants to make Pops happy. Rigby sees the whole thing as a big joke that’s vaguely at Benson’s expense, but he’s enough of a team player to go along with the plan without much fuss. Thomas doesn’t really care either way, but shut up, Thomas.
While “World’s Best Boss” is all about Benson, he barely appears in it until the final few minutes, as he arrives at the park to find a bunch of moderately well-dressed goons beating the crap out of his staff. This isn’t an especially deep episode, but it does make a rather nifty distinction between how the bad guy and how Benson define what makes a good boss. For the villain, it’s all about results, about motivating his men to do their best and accomplish what he wants them to do. For Benson, there’s no question—it’s about taking care of his people, looking out for them and keeping them out of harm’s t way, and if that means helping them beat up the invading white-collar guys and possibly kill that evil boss, then so be it. Benson is quick to point out that he isn’t really the world’s best boss, but he is solid, dependable, and fiercely loyal. Sure, he might threaten to fire everyone at episode’s end, but not until he’s ensured that they are all still alive and employed in the first place. That’s who Benson is, and that’s more than enough.