Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

How 'Kroll Show' Celebrates Dumb Television

By Saul Austerlitz | Indiewire April 2, 2014 at 9:46AM

"Kroll Show" parodies what it loves.
0
Nick Kroll as Axl Rose on "Kroll Show."
Ron Batzdorff/Comedy Central Nick Kroll as Axl Rose on "Kroll Show."

Imagine, if you can, a time before the DVR, before Netflix, before Hulu. A time when watching TV still consisted of (shudder) flipping channels. The prospect of going back to the “is anything on?” past may provoke near-panic in viewers accustomed to watching what they want when they want it, but the sensation of keeping a finger firmly pressed to the channel changer, hunting for better entertainment prey, can be revisited in more genial surroundings with “Kroll Show,” which just wrapped its second season on Comedy Central. Nick Kroll’s series replicates the feeling of aimlessly switching from one silly program to another, boiling down familiar genres to bite-size snippets. 

“Kroll Show” parodies what it loves. This is not a takedown of trash TV so much as it is a knowing celebration of dumb programming, its comedy found in the precise way it skewers TV shows by ever-so-slightly exaggerating their familiar qualities. These shows — the bickering publicists of “PubLIZity,” the excessively pampered, moderately brain-damaged “Rich Dicks” — really could be on the air. Everything looks familiar — almost too familiar. Comedy Central’s poster campaign for its shows-within-the-show almost had me checking the listings for when “Gigolo House” was set to premiere. 

Kroll and his co-creators Jonathan Krisel and John Levenstein have obviously pickled themselves in television, emerging only when the tropes and lazy shortcuts of a certain brand of TV have become second nature. Krisel made his name as one of the creators of “Portlandia,” and “Kroll Show” bears a distinct resemblance to that other sketch-comedy touchstone. At its best, “Portlandia” gleefully, knowingly mocks a certain hipster-yuppie sensibility, all artisanal knots and brunch at Fisherman’s Porch. “Kroll Show” transplants that gleefully debunking sensibility to the world of television. 

Nick Kroll.
Nick Kroll.

The opening graphics of “Kroll Show” hint at its knockoff-brand aesthetic, aping the logos for such instantly familiar television landmarks as “Miami Vice,” “Star Trek,” “Friends,” and “Game of Thrones.” But “Kroll” prefers to mock a certain brand of lowest-common-denominator programming; there are no “Mad Men” parodies to be had here. The fake shows are brilliantly insipid, the kind dreamed up at the sorts of network pitch meetings you hope are only a figment of your imagination. What if we slap together a bunch of guys with their brains in their pectorals in a McMansion and teach them how to be male prostitutes? What if two shabby-looking Upper West Side intellectuals had a show where they pranked guests by serving them overstuffed tuna sandwiches?  What if two publicity divas, both named Liz, do passive-aggressive combat from across a two-sided office desk while slurping loudly on a variety of iced drinks? 

“Liz, is it swimsuit season? Because you just, like, ralphed,” vapid publicity dynamo Liz G. (Kroll) asks her partner Liz B. (Jenny Slate) in one fragment from “PubLIZity” (The show is worth watching for its brilliant fake-show names alone). When Liz tells Liz she is pregnant (“the cat is pretty much out of the barn”), Liz G. squeezes her takeout iced-tea until it explodes. 

Kroll is a winning performer, has an impressive iPhone contacts list, and the loyalty of many talented comedians; this season’s guest stars have included Slate, Amy Poehler, Chelsea Peretti (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), and Adam Pally (“The Mindy Project”). The entire show is a mockery of mediocre TV, with brief vignettes parodying reality shows (“Gigolo House,” where Kroll's Bobby Bottleservice learns how to service customers with panache, and “Dad Academy,” with teen-daddy doofus C-Czar being schooled in the ways of parenting by an overgrown baby), Canadian teen shows (the brilliant “Wheels, Ontario”), “Apprentice”-style competition shows (the lamentable entrepreneurs of “Signing Bonus”), and of course the hair-metal rock show “Nash Rickey's Rock N' Reunion,” with its unforgettable theme song “L.A. Deli.” One of the show’s characters is described as having “a garbage brain,” and the same might be said of all these fame-chasers, burnouts, and narcissists. 

The shows occasionally seem to overlap with each other; the father of Liz’s baby is none other than the hapless C-Czar. And the stars of “Wheels, Ontario” return to serve as judges on the delightfully nonjudgmental and echt-Canadian “Show Us Your Songs Toronto,” on which everybody—no, really, everybody—is a winner.

This is not a takedown of trash TV so much as it is a knowing celebration of dumb programming.

Everyone will have their own favorites from among the regulars on “Kroll’s” dial. Mine are “Too Much Tuna,” which features Kroll and John Mulaney (“Saturday Night Live”) as the aging diner pranksters (they even prank the doctor who informs Kroll’s Gil Faison that he has mercury poisoning from eating three daily squares of tuna), and “Wheels, Ontario,” which gives Kroll the opportunity to twitch spasmodically while delivering his lines as the gormless teen idol Mikey, jerking his entire head to adjust his oh-so-floppy hair. “Canada canceled track after Ben Johnson shamed our country by cheating,” Mikey tells his new American college pal, before proceeding to thoroughly confuse the cafeteria staff by requesting “a sack of ketchup chips and a bag of homo milk.” 

“Kroll Show” succeeds by taking note of the little details. Kroll is a master of vocal nuance, whether it’s the slurred vowels of the fatally entitled “Rich Dicks” (“cercaine,” “warffles”), the vocal fry of the two Lizzes, Dr. Armond’s monotone, or Gil Faison’s knowing wheeze. The silly sound effects on “House Arrest,” with murder suspect/animal plastic surgeon Dr. Armond, are the crowning touch on this nightmarish mashup of Court TV and “Pop-Up Video.” Someone has been gulping down trash-TV in doses not recommended by the surgeon general, and taking copious notes. Kroll loves all these garbage brains.

The ground, inasmuch as there is any here, comes from the brief interview snippets between Kroll and his guests and writers. We see the “real” Kroll here, loose and charming. But isn’t this — the behind-the-scenes moment, the glimpse under the show-biz mask — another TV cliché, too?  There is no safe territory on “Kroll Show.” TV is everything, and everything is TV. Enjoy.

This article is related to: Television, Reviews, Nick Kroll, Nick Kroll, Kroll Show, Comedy Central, Comedy






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More