Judge Gordon Sullivan is tired of people thinking he's a robber, just because he always wears a ski mask.
"My life is being portrayed on TV in an unflattering light."—Jon (Jon Glaser)
Reality TV has been a ubiquitous part of the media landscape for over a decade. It's no longer the polarizing force it once was. Rather than an imaginary line on which we find those who love and those who hate reality TV, we're much more likely to see people who have a particular favorite reality show while dismissing all the others. In that kind of environment, reality TV is ripe for lampooning. The Office (in both its American and international flavors) has done this to great success, proving that the formula of fake reality TV has legs. Now we have Delocated! Seasons 1 & 2, another attempt at fake reality TV. Though it's not likely to be as well-loved as The Office, the show does score some laughs.
The setup for Delocated! is pretty simple: Jon (played by writer/creator Jon Glaser, Wonder Showzen) has to go into witness protection with his family after he informs on some bad people. However, he gets an offer to be on a reality TV show, where he and his family will be moved to New York City. Because they're in witness protection, they'll have to wear ski masks all the time, and, of course, the bad guys are after them. The first two seasons have been presented on this set, with each season getting its own disc:
Delocated! is obviously standing in the shadow of The Office. It's not just the fake reality TV thing, but both shows share a deadpan, uncomfortable sense of humor. However, Delocated! is hardly a rip-off of its more famous relative. Whereas The Office uses mockumentary stylings to poke fun at life in an office, Delocated! using those techniques to get laughs by poking fun at reality TV itself.
This is both the blessing and the curse of the show. On the one hand it does a lot to distinguish itself by presenting an absurd take on reality TV. Having the whole family wear ski masks to hide their faces (with vocal harmonizers surgically implanted to disguise their voices) is a really hilarious conceit. The show also does a good job showing the difference between expectations and reality with the show. For instance, Jon and his family are promised a nice apartment in New York, but when they arrive it looks like a tiny hotel room. The friction between expectations and the meager reality is consistently amusing.
On the other hand, though, Delocated! takes aim at reality TV. Is there an easier target for television satire than reality TV? Delocated! is aiming for such a big target that many of the jokes can be pretty obvious. The idea that reality TV has sunk so low that it is taking on witness protection participants is funny, but those kind of broad swipes can only go so far.
Two things save Delocated! from being totally tedious. The first is that it mixes a bit of sitcom in with its reality TV lampooning. Though individual episodes wrap up satisfactorily, there is also a decent amount of buildup between episodes. The second thing that saves the show is its sheer absurdity. The first season contains seven 11-minute episodes, and they play out like minor doses of surrealism. By the time the second season started, Glaser had negotiated a move to 22-minute episodes. This expanded canvas gives Glaser and crew the ability run wild. With more time, even more absurd things happen, including random violence and Jon's attempt to open a bed-and-breakfast in an RV. By the end of the second season everything is so weird that it's hard not to watch things fall about for Jon.
Adult Swim has given the first two seasons of Delocated! a solid DVD release. The show has that shot-on-consumer-equipment look, so don't expect to show off a new TV with this set. However, all the shows and extras probably could have fit on a single disc, so it's nice they've spread it out over two. Because of the source detail isn't particularly strong, and colors can vary a bit, but no digital artifacts crop up to mar the material. The 5.1 surround track is a bit ambitious for a show like this, but dialogue is clean and clear (despite the omnipresence of vocal harmonizers on Jon and his family).
Extras start with 10 minutes of deleted scenes that vary in their laugh quotient. Outtakes follow, with 24 minutes of assorted randomness that also varies in comedy quality. We get a pair of "flip books" that contain animated versions of a bunch of production stills. Things round out with a "demo" that's three minutes of pre-pilot material to entice viewers. There are also some commentaries on the first season disc. They're hard to find (not in a special features menu or in the setup screen). It's mainly Jon Glaser talking about the production of the show and praising his creative partners. Hardly essential, though it does give some info on how the show came to be.
Delocated! is a weird little show I'm sure will find an audience amongst those who like a bit of deadpan humor mixed with their satire. I'm not sure what the show can do after the end of Season Two, but these 19 episodes are full of enough inspired weirdness to make them worth seeking out for fans of Adult Swim's brand of absurd comedy.
These short blasts of surreal satire are not guilty.
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