Anders Holm, Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine

The secret to Workaholics’ appeal is its ability to make the guys’ arrested adolescence palatable. Sometimes it’s simply because creators and stars Adam DeVine, Anders Holm, and Blake Anderson come up with some sublime nonsense—weed-smoking, juvenile shenanigans can be giddily hilarious in the right hands (such as the comedy trio here, who, I’m just gonna speculate, have plenty of experience). Other successful episodes of Workaholics work in a level of self-awareness that these three amiable dum-dums recognize that their own limitations and fears (of growing up, of women, of running out of weed) make them vulnerable—simply put, Adam, Blake, and Ders need each other because no one else understands them, and no one else will have them. Last season—Workaholics’ best, I’d say—found the right blend of boorish, often scatological nonsense and comic insight on a delightfully regular basis.

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Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm

“Wolves Of Rancho,” the season six opener, does not find that balance.

When the guys, braced by the slick, smarmy, Porsche-driving reappearance of former TelAmeriCorp coworker Liam Hemsworth, demand that Maribeth Monroe’s boss Alice transfer them to Hemsworth’s Van Nuys branch of the company, they’re excited. When they turn up to find the darkened office deserted and a booming voice on a floodlit speakerphone demanding they prove they’re good enough to work there, they launch into enthusiastically bumbling self-aggrandizement (“He could sell sand to Sand-ra Bullock—she, um, probably doesn’t need sand, probably has a beach house or something”) which, nonetheless, sees them brought into the fold. Then the lights go up to reveal their new coworkers—and their new boss. Played by Dane Cook.

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Dane Cook

Look, everything’s been written about Dane Cook that can be written at this point. And he’s actually perfect casting as the guys’ ideal boss here, a hair-gelled, bullying, bro-jock of a boss whose sales incentives include botox shots, sushi strippers, in-office saunas, stripper poles (complete with strippers), and mandatory hair tonics and essential oils. Workaholics has always made good hay out of the guys’ admiration for such people, fictional and otherwise, so the appearance of Cook as their paragon of successful masculinity is combination of signifier and signified so on-the-nose, it’s no wonder the show went for it.

The only problem is, that we have to watch a sweating, shouting, sleazy Dane Cook for much of the episode, a prospect Workaholics seems to think is hilarious on its surface. Sure, in the end, Cook’s vulgar dick gets his comeuppance, his plan to steal Alice’s speech for a big presentation resulting in pictures of his coke-and-stripper excesses getting him fired and humiliated, but in the meantime watching Cook bellow lines like, “We’re gonna take this week and we’re gonna butt-fuck it until it dumps money“ is just watching Dane Cook bellow lines like “We’re gonna take this week and we’re gonna butt-fuck it until it dumps money.” (Feel free to substitute his braying sales philosophy, “No means yes.”) And that’s before he wheels out Pauly Shore (as himself) in a plexiglass box.

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I suppose if you’re going go deep into the heart of Adam, Ders, and Blake’s aspirational darkness, you go all the way, and I admit to a little shudder of admiration for the effort once Shore’s appearance was revealed, but the problem is that neither Cook nor Shore does anything particularly funny. Again—they’re in on the joke their appearances represent, no doubt, but both comics (and the show) seem to think their respective shticks are hilarious to watch, when they are decidedly not. Workaholics can be an incredibly self-indulgent series, secure in the belief that watching the three leads essentially fuck around on screen will be funny. And often it is. But when it’s not—and this is most often true with high-profile guest stars—it can be excruciating instead. The season opens with the guys doing an extended beatboxing riff that falls into that category, sadly. And the guys—fitfully amusing as it is to watch them embrace the Van Nuys’ spirit of samurai swords and morning cocktails—are shunted too far off to the side for most of the episode.

There are people who find Dane Cook and Pauly Shore gut-bustingly hilarious no doubt, and while I am not one of those people, that’s not the point. If Workaholics works best when its bro comedy and its deconstruction of bro comedy are in equilibrium, “Wolves Of Rancho” is disastrously unbalanced in favor of the former. Getting three variably weighty guest stars (Hemsworth’s strapping Aussie douchebaggery is the funniest) may have been the creators’ way of announcing season six with a bang, but here’s hoping that, now Anderson, Holm, and DeVine have gotten that out of their systems, the rest of the season will see them find the sweet spot of stupidity again.

Stray observations

  • Maribeth Monroe, fresh off a fine supporting role on The Brink, is back, but it looks like we may have seen the last of Jillian Bell, who has her own Comedy Central series, the similarly minded (and very funny) Idiotsitter.
  • Bill, Tez, and Weymond (who paints a portrait of the guys) admit to missing Adam, Blake, and Ders, influencing the guys to reconsider the plan to steal Alice’s speech. Ders: “I know we were never in a group will Bill called the Wiki Wild Boys, but maybe we should put this back.”
  • It makes sense that the Van Nuys’ branch seems to be selling hoverboards, exclusively.
  • As much name recognition as it gets in the episode, it’s unlikely Yoshinoya Beef Bowl paid for product placement, considering Blake’s assessment that its signature dish is “almost liking eating a wet paper towel in a way.”
  • The guys, blaming Alice’s supposed lack of leadership for not allowing them to be, as Adam says, “a great man, and a true pimp playboy for real” realize they’ve gone too far when they call her a bitch. Despite Blake’s attempt at a save (“We’re not calling you a bitch, we’re saying that things you do are that of a bitch”), Monroe’s withering glare is, as ever, a thing of beauty.
  • In the end, Alice (who, it’s revealed, was married to Cook’s character for nine weeks), turns the tables, welcoming the guys back with a triumphant, “I do not act like a bitch. I am a bitch. A bad, bad bitch, you bitch.”
  • Lines like this one from Adam make me realize how much I’ve missed Workaholics: “Regret-cancer, ‘cause that’s a real thing. My aunt died from it—she regretted smoking all her life.”
  • Same goes for Ders’ odd little reading once Cook orders his office strippers out of the room, “The girls have to leave because of this matter?”
  • Hemsworth brags that the wall-to-wall office photographs of Cook are by the guy who “shot Brooke Burke for the cover of Stuff magazine.”
  • Welcome back, everybody. I’m Dennis and, once again, I’ll be your reviewer for season six of Workaholics. I’ve been assured that these were one-off guest stars, so we’ve got that going for us.

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