Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
For the first time in more than fifteen years, Friday at midnight is the time to watch 30 minutes of brand-new sketch comedy starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. Well, technically you can start watching a little sooner than that, but fans of Mr. Show with Bob and David, HBO’s short-lived triumph of comic anarchy, might hold off a day for old times’ sake. Come Friday morning, all four episodes (and an hour-long making-of feature) of W/ Bob and David will be available on Netflix, and that’s something lovers of Mr. Show, unpredictable comedy and bad hairpieces should be very excited about.
At the end of one of the many, many indelible sketches to come out of Mr. Show’s 30-episode run, Val Thompson, former member of The Fad 3 (a pre-Beatles group of photogenic lads made famous for… being photogenic), claims he’s willing to reunite with his old troupe, but only under any circumstances. Whatever the type of show business, desperation has a way of inspiring attempts to recapture old glory. Had Odenkirk and Cross not found continued, asynchronous TV success following Mr. Show’s end (the former on Breaking Bad shortly after the latter’s time on Arrested Development), we might have expected something like W/ Bob and David to come along much sooner. But the impression you get while watching the new sketches is that Bob and David have returned to the domain of bizarre characters, terrible wigs, and shoddy sets mostly because they’ve missed them as much as we have.
W/ Bob and David reunites nearly the entire Mr. Show writing staff, and despite this group’s churlish sense of humor, it’s undeniably sweet to see much of the returning cast on stage together during the premiere’s opening sketch. Being true to Mr. Show’s outrageous impulses means that sweetness is curtailed by the presence of a Porta-Potty time machine, but, as we learned two decades ago, you can’t write a comedy scene without getting some feces in there. Despite Odenkirk and Cross being cagey about W/ Bob and David’s relationship to Mr. Show (which gets a direct shout-out within the first minute), the breadth of talent reassembled should give fans reason to believe that the two programs would be as indistinguishable as Mayostard and Mustardayonnaise.
What’s most surprising, then, about W/ Bob and David is its willingness to get with the times. The end of Mr. Show in ’98 shortly predated the arrival of the Internet as a video platform, and big players of the present comedy boom include many great, YouTube-able sketch shows like Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer. The absurdity and devil-may-care attitude of Mr. Show made its laughable budget and four-letter vocabulary endearing, and W/ Bob and David doesn’t meddle with the winning formula so much as streamline it.