Weed, deception, weiners, Karl, questionable business practices, mouth stuff, an In Good Company reunion—apart from the anticipated return of Jillian Bell’s Jillian, “Weed The People” has everything the hard core Workaholics fan could want. The guys’ find themselves stuck trying to sell Alice’s dad Ted’s new invention, a combination duck call/fire whistle/breathing filter called the Smoke Cutter, an endeavor that goes predictably poorly until Blake inadvertently turns their telemarketing into a front for dirtbag pal Karl’s pot-dealing business. Along the way, Tez and the rest of the TelAmeriCorp drones get far too high, Adam and Alice pretend to be a couple, Ders and Karl get obsessed with sexually dominating each other, and Karl’s unscrupulous weed supplier jacks up his prices, leading to a golf course showdown where Ted’s angry dad skills save the day. And probably kill a guy.
Like I said, everything you could want from a series whose comic soul is laid out in its title. Three arrested adolescents make their epically pointless workplace their playground through drug-assisted shenanigans and general irreverence. That the guys are, at heart, both too inept and too fundamentally decent to do much real damage is what keeps Workaholics’ constant juvenile pranksterism from (usually) coming off as distasteful, or mean-spirited. (The show has lost sight of that in the past, to disastrous effect, comedically.) Here, the guys mock Ted’s invention, make fun of boss Alice’s discomfiture that her enthusiastic father (who blew his life savings on his invention and also is pestering her for grandkids) is constantly around the office, and, you know, start a massively illegal drug distribution operation on TelAmeriCorp’s phone lines. But their actions all come couched in just enough self-involved goodwill that you can’t be too upset.
What’s off more often than not in a lesser Workaholics episode is an airtight reason for the nonsense. Here, we’ve got the motivating incident (Ted and his Smoke Cutter), escalation (Blake’s speakerphone drug deal), weird sideline (Karl and Ders’ obsession with who’s the “dom”), and resolution (drug dealer brained with golf club). All fine, standard Workaholics fun. So why doesn’t “Weed The People” take off?
For one thing, the whole Adam and Alice storyline rests on too-shaky logical ground to sustain its screen time. Yes, I’m citing logic on Workaholics. The guys (talking here about the fictional and real life versions) are happy to screw around, and we’re generally happy to watch them. But putting the guys’ improv-heavy antics into a well-constructed framework is essential so that we’re not just watching 22 minutes of Adam DeVine making faces and sputtering inept come-ons. (The tags on most episodes bear this out. There is undoubtedly a lot of justifiably unused riffing clogging up hard drives in the Workaholics’ offices.) Here, there’s really no reason for Alice to go along with Adam’s claim that they’re in a relationship, just as there’s no real clear reason shown why Adam is doing it in the first place. Alice could be afraid of embarrassment in front of her dad (although Adam’s typically sleazy inappropriateness is embarrassing enough), and Adam could be trying to help Alice out, or could be trying to humiliate her. (And never count out Adam losing the thread of his own schemes almost immediately.) But that’s all trying to jam together something ill-designed in order to make comic sense of what happens. A better written episode of Workaholics doesn’t need the help.
Similarly, the battle of wills (and wieners) between Ders and Karl is a lot of gyrating for not much comic heat. Here, too, there isn’t sufficient motivation for their “silverback gorilla” struggle for office sexual supremacy, with Alice’s snapped order for Ders to do whatever Karl says (she thinks he’s the sales consultant they called, since he’s in disguise in a suit and all) all that’s needed for Karl to start trying to “dominate” Ders. Some of that can be traced back to Ders’ long-standing antipathy toward the guys’ drug dealer/sort-of pal, sure. Ders onetime description of Karl as “dirty brown water trash” has an enduring, poetic hatred to it, and, tonight, there’s some of that magic in his response to seeing Karl in the guys’ cubicle. (“Karl, shut up. And then now talk, and tell me why you’re in my office.”) But the whole rivalry comes off like a comic idea looking for inspiration, as Karl deep-throats a stick of butter, and Ders humps a podium and stuffs two golf balls in his mouth for what seems like a long time in each case.
On the guest star front, Dennis Quaid as the perpetually beaming Ted and Topher Grace (nearly unrecognizable) as drug dealer Noel also look like they’re waiting for something funny to do most of the time. Quaid commits, but he’s stuck reacting to Adam’s over-the-top role-playing most of the time, which leaves him stranded. And Grace gets to do a nice bit of underplayed horror reacting to Ders’ golf-ball-aided attempts to “dom” him on the golf course (“Don’t do a dance”), but “Weed The People” never finds its groove.
- Confronted by Alice, Karl gives his name as “Kyle Newacheck,” suggesting that Karl may have some Deadpool-esque, fourth-wall-breaking powers.
- Maribeth Monroe’s greatest comic moves as Alice come when she’s desperately trying to pretend to give a crap about her pointless hellscape of a job.
- Blake delivers an inspirational speech to get the TelAmeriCorp crew to help sell weed (he lies that Ted is dying), which works great until he gets them so stoned they end up useless.
- Adam, trying to butter up Ted about the Smoke Cuter and pretend that he’s Alice’s boyfriend: “It’s the second most fantastic thing you’ve created. The first being Alice. [Long pause.] You guys got that, right?”
- Adam, when Ted presents him with a family ring to give to Alice: “Okay, no. I don’t wanna marry you. I wanna marry her.”
- Blake discovers that the Smoke Cutter makes a great weed pipe, so it’s a happy ending.
- And, sure, Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid were also in Traffic and Truth together, but In Good Company’s pretty good, you guys.