Now this is more like it. After a season premiere wallowing in indulgently unfunny isolated stories and a lack of comic focus, “Front Yard Wrestling” taps into some of the essential qualities that make for a solidly silly and enjoyable Workaholics.
For one, the guys are united against a common enemy. Additionally, that enemy is their landlord who, demanding the rent they owe, places himself firmly in the category of “grownup responsibilities” that is, or should be, the guys’ ultimate nemesis. And third, their plan to wipe said responsibility off the white board that is their concept of the future allows for Ders, Blake, and Adam to do some funny, goofy shit as a team. Too often last year, an episode’s conflict brought out the worst in the show and the characters, the guys’ fractious bickering diffusing the show’s comic power. (Also, someone usually got poop on them.) Nope, this time, the guys’ foray into colorfully low-rent amateur wrestling delivers some solid laughs, there’s an admirable twist ending, a funny, unexpected guest star, and, best of all, Jillian is back!
The episode gets underway when the real world intrudes on Blake and Adam’s sexy jigsaw puzzle fun (“Let’s finish the puzzle, then you can play with the little boobie-pieces,” counsels Blake), with Ders dropping the bomb that their landlord, Del, has issued an ultimatum on their late-as-usual rent, and will brook none of their previously effective delays. “He said specifically, do not invite me over to crush a 30 rack and listen to Family Guy impressions,” says Ders, ably laying in some necessary backstory for what’s to come. It’s suitably goofy, then, that the guys’ plan to raise the cash is to stage an energetically inept wrestling match on their front lawn—and that they’re immediately fleeced out of the birthday hundred from Adam’s grandmother by some neighborhood kids.
So when the guys trudge into TelAmeriCorp the next day and find out that office sad sack Bill has become a local celebrity (well, the stoner delivery guy knows him) thanks to his typically Bill-like nonsensical cable access show (he seems to review park benches), the stage is set for the next phase of escalating Workaholics logic. “I know we have casually mentioned starting a federation…,” begins Ders, and the light in Blake and Adams’ eyes is all the episode needs to keep the plot engine rolling.
At their most endearing, the guys’ arrested adolescence appeals to the work-shirking layabout in all of us, their assorted juvenalia tapping into the universal desire to throw off the myriad no-fun obligations of adulthood. Wrestling—with its DayGlo, larger-than-life heroes and villains and endless, self-aggrandizing bombast—is a perfect fit for the guys dilemma here (more so than porn, or weed, or beer, anyway), and they take to it with customary over-enthusiasm. Blake dips into his costumes and becomes the Inuit hero “Eskimofo,” while Adam’s narcissism means he’s just “Adam,” loaded down with Randy “Macho Man” Savage’s attitude and signature salty meat snack. (“Snap into wrestling!” he growls, not entirely getting it.) Ders, with greyed-in temples and slick blazer, appoints himself commissioner, playing up the Vince McMahon evil millionaire persona humorously, a concept helped immeasurably by Jillian Bell’s first appearance of the season.
Last season also suffered when the guys’ adventures took them too often away from the workplace that gives them much of their identity, especially since it also deprived them of Jillian to play off of. Always a funny lady, Bell finally got the notices she deserves for her supporting role in 22 Jump Street. On Workaholics, she functions much like Pam on Archer—always on the fringes, but gradually revealing enough independent weirdness to hold her own. Like Pam, Jillian (even more than fellow TelAmeriCorp-ers Bill, Montez, or Alice) is someone you want to know more about. And while her appearances here—playing the devious Stephanie McMahon to Ders’ Vince—does’t allow her to do much, her willingness to take enthusiastic part in the guys’ nonsense speaks to her enduring position as the one person who‘s able to hang with the protagonists’ chaos.
At this point, I’m going to deploy my first-ever spoiler warning for an episode of Workaholics, as this is a tightly plotted little episode, with a fun swerve from guest star Ben Stiller. As the guys’ no-doubt long-suffering landlord, Stiller plays it deadpan for most of the episode, which looks good on him. It’s especially funny that his forbearance for the guys doesn’t extend to Adam. (“I’ve only put up with a lot over the years because I like you.” “Thank you.” “Not you.”) So when Bill—jealous that they guys have stolen his coveted 4 a.m. cable slot—sabotages their upcoming moneymaking exhibition (“We’re done with your name calling and your gotcha journalism!” snaps Ders), and Del categorically forbids them from performing, it sets the stage for the guys to do something ridiculous and irresponsible.
Only they don’t. Well, apart from the whole thing—but for Blake, Adam, and Ders, the reveal that they and Del had staged the blowup to drive up demand for the event (and shore up Del’s failing Coldstone Creamery franchise) is nothing sort of brilliant. You know, for them, but still. (Stiller, coming to shut down the ’rassling, gets to bust out some of his Mystery Men Mr. Furious moves as well.) So when Del shows up at episode’s end, sundaes in hand, to make the reveal, it’s as absurdly satisfying as it is absurd—which should be the tag on any good Workaholics episode.
- That second ring setup is awfully elaborate for some guys with no money.
- Perhaps channeling the WWF Attitude Era, Commissioner Ders announces that both Blake and Adam had died before announcing their new personae. Adam’s ashes were eaten by a kitten (after “saving hundreds of Maxim models from a burning alive in a hotel fire and he was sleeping with a ton of them!”) turning him into feline-motif “Catam.” Blake, after being stung by Bill’s criticism that “Eskimofo” is racist, comes out covered in rubber as “The Eracist” (he erases racism).
- Blake’s shame at Bill’s film of Native Americans calling him racist is the sort of thing that makes him endearing. And his abashed return to his Native American voice in response to Del (“You cannot own the land”) is hilarious.
- “You thought we were going to get married and live here together with our wives and kids?”
- Stiller, bringing the cheap heat: “I’m the one whose gonna enjoy ass-kicking your dumb-ass asses!”
- “I am a rich businessperson and I command you to marry the winner of this match!”
- “His forearms are too stong! He scooped too much ice cream!”
- Del, apologizing for punching Adam in the nose for real: “Sorry about that. It’s just I’ve never really liked you so I had a shot and I took it.”