On paper, combining the comedy stylings of anthropomorphized sock-puppet Triumph The Insult Comic Dog and anthropomorphized sock-puppet Jack McBrayer for a full half-hour probably seemed like a good idea. A previous McBrayer-Triumph pairing was certainly a viral hit and it’s the exact sort of odd-couple pairing you might expect to thrive on Adult Swim’s alley of late-night oddities.
But whatever you might be expecting, whatever potential you saw in the poster, The Jack And Triumph Show is not that show. It is awful in a completely unexpected way that borders on unique. While the show does not fall prey to the trap of combining the worst aspects of the two leads—which is to say their one-note natures—it instead finds a brand new slew of predictable, tired notes that you would never have thought to associate with these two recognizable faces.
The show insists on establishing a narrative framework for its two stars, locking them (and the viewer) in the dolled-up corpse of a multi-camera sitcom, with plenty of cutaways for most of its run time. In this case, we follow the exploits of Jack, a former child star and Midnight Cowboy protégé of an opportunistic, foul-mouthed Triumph. The two end up moving in with Jack’s former onscreen mother, June (June Squibb), who loves all animals with the exception of Triumph. Many things ensue, but wackiness is unfortunately not one of them.
The sitcom portion of the show feels like the heightened, “stereotypical sitcom” daydream of of a much cruder, much better show. You might spend most of the episode waiting for Jack to snap out of this bland fantasy, like J.D. from Scrubs, and for the real show to begin, which unfortunately does not happen. Mixing puppets and actors in this style is tricky, but certainly not impossible: Greg The Bunny perfected the formula back in 2002. The show even gets bored with this premise halfway through, ditching the cardboard set of June’s house in favor of a fan convention, for reasons the show itself isn’t very concerned with keeping clear. It’s something to do with furniture.
The second half of the episode belongs to Triumph, adopting his signature on-the-run interview style of comedy as the duo make their way around the convention, running into real-world, recognizable figures like William Shatner, Hulk Hogan, Brent Spiner, and Tay Zonday. The theme of the show seems to be Q-list stardom—a place now theoretically occupied by former star children Jack and Triumph, which might be promising if Jack wasn’t essentially reduced to boom-mic operator whenever Triumph takes the lead. Unfortunately, for plot purposes, Triumph can be neither as biting or as entertaining as during his Conan heyday.
The signature Triumph zingers are there, and all courtesy of Triumph. But every choice made by the premiere dies on arrival. Triumph pointing out the awfulness of an imagined showdown between Jack and clinically-insane Police Academy star Michael Winslow is proof that simply referencing a target’s awfulness is no longer a punchline.
The show will not kill your love for American’s favorite apple-faced goon and Eminem’s No. 1 frenemy, but mixing them together in this specific manner feels like diluting a spoonful of ketchup in a warm glass of Coke. From locking McBrayer and Triumph into the premise of a multi-cam sitcom to allowing one star to bulldoze the other during the convention scenes, every choice taken by the pilot feels like a misstep. The potential of this pairing, which is innately chuckle-worthy, is dead on arrival.