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Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. Their Hero” (1.05)

Bernie and Capt. Cannon share a romantic moment.

A review of the Canadian comedy’s fifth episode, written by Laurie Elliot and directed by Graeme Lynch, after the jump…

In this episode, the boys collectively buy and lose 200 rats and a boa constrictor, play Russian Roulette with an aging TV burnout, pretend to be that burnout when he dies, and launch his body out of a cannon. For a show that does best when it explores the little things, this episode was way over the top, featuring a serious number of missteps and flat jokes.

Peter listing a comic under a bizarre letter because of a ridiculous sorting arrangement is believable. Peter arranging a funeral for his father that includes both Klingon and a multitude of zombie references is believable. But the show betrayed Peter’s character twice here: first, by giving him a misstep that might have worked on The Simpsons with the rats and the snake, and second by having him trust Dan for the punch recipe. These boys never trust Dan. He is definitively evil in this universe, and even Peter knows not to trust him. Two throwaway moments that undermined his character completely, which is troubling as the character already constantly walks the line between fun and annoying.

Almost Heroes likes to take a sitcom trope and put their own spin on it, like that’s the ‘headset date’ from 1.03. The crazy celebrity appearance is one of those recurring tropes. I’m not terribly against them, and actually think they allow us to define vastly-different shows by seeing how their comedy plays out in the same kind of episode. And Almost Heroes, with its comic book store setting, is a perfect setting for this plot, even if I wish they’d subverted the trope somewhat.  But this particular trope is frustrating because its hard to pull off, because the centrepiece is the celebrity guest star. Raising Hope, for example, did this trope with their “Burt Rocks” (1.10) episode, and it was one of the worst of the season. Almost Heroes got around this largely in this episode by only keeping him around for a few  scenes and then moving on to dealing with his death, but the cliche was still the core of the episode, and it suffered for it.

And having him die, and then having his remains blow up in the face of the nerdy audience, is both too much for this show and the second time they’ve done this exact joke. That scene happened in the pilot, and it worked because their father was dead and cremated. Here, watching the freshly-dead body of a guest character spray over the customers in flaming chunks sacrificed the show’s reality for a joke that was a not-that-funny also-ran.

In fact, the humour of this episode was almost completely off-base. It was either too-big jokes that betrayed the series’ universe (cannons, snakes and blood’n guts), weak jokes that work as pale imitations of the show’s regular go-to’s (like anything here involving Bernie), or a particular brand of non-joke pretending to be absurdist. That last type includes the moment where Boyd calls a slippery apartment ‘snakey’, and when the weakness in the joke is lampshaded in Rayna’s dialogue, he merely says “Weird…” and spaces off. Honestly, this episode, much like Raising Hope‘s “Burt Rocks”, would have been a winner if the script were to to par. But it wasn’t.

That said, if I weren’t viewing it critically, I would have enjoyed it. The cast are still doing great work with what they’re given here, even if they don’t get many avenues to stretch their muscles. Paul Campbell and Ryan Belleville still have a great chemistry as brothers, and the entire cast sings. The only one off this week was Lauren Ash as Bernie, and I’m willing to chalk that up to Ash struggling with the off-base script.

And the show’s unsung hero, Dave Hemstad returns as Dan and is immediately the best part of the lackluster episode. As the show’s antagonist, he brings a fantastic energy to the show, as well as the bulk of the laughs. As Dan, Hemstad is able to wring laughs out of the weakest lines, lines that aren’t even jokes, because the character is so strongly-imagined. His tough-guy dismissiveness, and the joy he takes in messing with the brothers, gave this episode a huge boost in enjoyment for me.

Ultimately, it’s to this show’s credit that it has established such a consistent tone and set of characters five episodes in. However, it’s also five episodes into an eight-episode season, so I’m dearly hoping it will be the season’s last dud.

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  1. […] Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. Their Hero” (1.05) In this episode, the boys collectively buy and lose 200 rats and a boa constrictor, play Russian Roulette with an aging TV burnout, pretend to be that burnout when he dies, and launch his body out of a cannon. For a show that does best when it explores the little things, this episode was way over the top, featuring a serious number of missteps and flat jokes. Read more. […]



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