Mid-way through “Trainees’ Day,” the premiere episode of this seventh and final season of Workaholics, TelAmeriCorp boss Alice levels this insult at perpetual thorns-in-her-side Ders, Blake, and Adam:
When you guys started here seven years ago, this was all kind of cute. But you know what, you’re old as fuck now.
Granted, Alice (Maribeth Monroe, as ever spitting contempt with the best of them) just stumbled upon the guys prepping to shoot an amateur porno in their office cubicle. And, yes, that means she saw Ders using an electric razor to shave Adam’s shockingly hirsute butthole, Blake furiously using a penis pump to get ready for action, and the cubicle strewn with sex toys. But she’s got a point, one that the aging stars of this venerable paean to juvenile irresponsibility and scatology come out addressing head-on (pardon that). Blake Anderson, Anders Holm, and Adam DeVine (Adam DeMamp’s protest “We’re basically in our 20s more or less” notwithstanding) are getting a little old for this, right?
Especially taking into consideration the not-insignificant successes the trio have had outside of Workaholics, it’s worth asking whether Anderson, Holm, and DeVine have enough left in the nitrous tank. On one level, “Trainees’ Day” seeks to answer that question by showing how Henderson, Holmvik, and DeMamp’s lameness has always been part of the joke. The guys set out to reestablish their top-dog office prankster status by basically just being annoying as hell (stealing Ghostman’s staples, dulling the paper cutter, replacing the coffee with flat Dr. Pepper) before a trio of new, millennial trainees (played by Jen D’Angelo, Andre Bachelor, and Scotty Dickert) prove far better—and more psychotic—at terrorizing their coworkers. Bill breaks some vertebrae on a bacon-greased hallway, and you don’t even want to know what D’Angelo’s Leila did in the water cooler. (She shat in it.) It really puts the guys’ “Tez, they’re towing your car!” prank to shame, since Tez rushes out only to see Ders wiggling his bare toe in the car’s tailpipe. Because, “toe-ing.” You get it.
That’s all fine—the gap between the guys’ baller conception of themselves and their actual capacity for the assholery and meanness necessary to achieve baller status is what keeps them more or less sympathetic. Watching Adam attempt to replicate Bachelor’s Clay landing an impressive Donald O’Connor backflip off a wall by doing a half-assed cartwheel (he still pulls something) is the guys’ true nature in a nutshell. Shaped by their slavish devotion to bro culture but unable to muster either the prowess or the soullessness to follow through on their douchebag ambitions is basically Workaholics’ comic mission statement. The problem is that the show has been sputtering along without the inspiration to make the guys shenanigans consistently amusing for a while now.
The new blood are more ruthless at pranking, but not in any particularly inventive or funny way. (New Girl’s Winston could show them a few things about making tone-deaf pranking hilarious as well.) And their anarchic mischief weaves all over the place, leaving the trio a collection of contrived millennial stereotypes and mixed motivations. Sometimes they’re sincerely grateful for the guys’ guidance, other times they’re pranking the guys into a week of unpaid leave—the inconsistency makes “Trainees’ Day” fundamentally unstable. The best Workaholics episodes ground the guys’ (usually self-generated) dilemmas in deceptively rigid logic. These pranksters just don’t have enough agency to drive the story.
There’s funny stuff to be found here, largely in the guys’ always-entertainingly loose banter. Lines like Ders’ warning that he’s shaved Adam’s b-hole as close as he dares (“I put it at a 2, I can take it down to a 1.”) encapsulate just how completely into their scabrous little plans the guys get. And Blake and Adam’s response to the trainees’ proposal to shoot that office porno (a prank at their expense, naturally) has the improv feel that makes the prospect of just listening to these goofs’ daily lives so entertaining. (Adam: “Honestly, that’s my dream.” Blake: “He’s already got a lot of scripts.”) Also, in explaining their pranking rules, the guys’ pretensions toward Fight Club coolness are thwarted by the fact that they haven’t really got a handle on the whole “catchy rhyme” idea. (Adam: “Snitches get… put in a body bag.” “Snitches are… big old pieces of shit.”)
And it’s endearing more than pathetic to see that the guys still are still in deep denial about their own shortcomings, as, in preparation for appearing in the porno, Ders worries about his long-rumored plan to run for Rancho Cucamonga city council, Blake works the pump on his storied micropenis, and Adam says he’s fine with his face and genitals being on camera if they’ll only blur his midsection. We’re simultaneously in the position of rooting for the guys’ perpetual, self-deluded underdog status, and finding their feverish attempts to overcome it deeply irritating. The fuel for that particular engine is laughter, and too often here, there’s not enough of that to keep “Trainees’ Day” from occasionally wheezing with effort.
- Confronted with the sight of Adam’s anus, among other things, Alice (in-office on a Saturday for her yoga class “side-hustle”) calls out, “Where’s Jillian!” While Jillian Bell’s enduringly, endearingly weird office factotum Jillian doesn’t appear tonight (and while her own Comedy Central gig is scheduled to return soon), word is she’ll be back at TelAmeriCorp at some point in this last season.
- Snatch of overheard hallway debate: “The monkey would bite the Rock’s dick off.”
- Some prime Adam verbal overreach as the guys weed out all but the youngest trainees (after bumping actual trainer Bill without too much trouble): “Sit your ass down, because you have a 3 as the first letter of your number.”
- Adam, accepting the trainees’ fawning praise: “I have always considered myself a Slim Shady. And I plan on talking about murdering my wife but not actually doing it.”
- Oh, they keep oldest trainee Jerry (Greg Lewis) as well, because he’s 69. You get it.
- And, after booting the millennials with an elaborate prank about dosing the workers’ coffee with, well, everything essentially, poor Jerry actually has a heart attack and dies. Theoretically dark, the guy’s fate is softened somewhat by the guys’ sincere, if nonsensical, affection for their buddy “69 Man.” Plus, now he won’t have to work at TelAmeriCorp.
- But I’m back at work, reviewing Workaholics’ final season. Thanks, as ever for reading my side-hustle.