Tim and Eric continue their bizarre but triumphant run with ‘Bedtime Stories’ season two
Adam Ramos | Wednesday, September 20, 2017
In 2004, Adult Swim — Cartoon Network’s late night programming block, then only three years old — introduced the world to the surreal comedy of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (endearingly referred to simply as Tim and Eric) with the program “Tom Goes to the Mayor.” Supported by comedy veterans David Cross and Bob Odenkrik, the show, with its inventive animation style, bizarre editing and zany, almost incoherent plot lines, marked a complete departure from Adult Swim’s usual programming, or that of any other network at the time, for that matter.
“Tom Goes to the Mayor,” though it only ran for two seasons, marked the start of two extremely successful and influential comedy careers. Along with producing and acting in numerous other successful programs, the duo would go on to establish its own production company, Abso Lutely Productions, which has since developed several other innovative shows, including “The Eric Andre Show,” “Nathan for You” and “Comedy Bang Bang.” The pair’s influence on comedy is now far-reaching and their signature surrealist humor has become a mainstay for Adult Swim — likely a pivotal component of the programming block’s persistent and surprising success over the years.
This summer marked the 10th anniversary of Heidecker and Wareheim’s longest-running show — “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” — which came with the announcement of a celebratory U.S comedy tour. The tour, which I caught on its New York stop, was a hilarious amalgamation of several popular Tim and Eric bits from the past 10 years. Additionally, and much to my surprise, the show also provided a sneak peek into the second season of Heidecker and Wareheim’s most recently created program, “Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories.” With four episodes having been released already, it’s safe to say the comedy pair have reached a new height. This season of “Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories” finds Wareheim and Heidecker hitting their stride, showcasing a newly poignant direction for their surrealist style.
Season one of the horror-parody anthology series, which wrapped up in early 2015, was mostly successful but ran into growing pains. While the pair’s absurdist humor seemed to benefit from the higher budget, the mix of horror and comedy didn’t always blend cohesively enough. Episodes like “Toes” and “Roommates,” while funny, failed to deliver on the horror component. Thankfully, the interim between seasons seems to have paid off.
Episode one of the new season, titled “Baklava,” finds a savvy piano salesman named Barry (Wareheim) pushing to win a monthly sales competition in order to win a salary bonus and save the city of Dallas from destruction. Quickly the narrative shifts — the duo’s hallmark strategy in “Bedtime Stories” — as Barry’s boss (Heidecker) stops the work day to gush about his new obsession with the Greek dessert, baklava. Chaos erupts when Berry’s boss’ baklava source closes down and Barry is forced to continuously keep his now-hopeless boss alive while pushing to win the sales competition. Like most episodes, the ending is grotesque and bewildering.
If the season two premier’s premise sounds strange, that’s because it is. Yet the precise use of lighting, sound effects, music and staging works so well as to create a miraculously compelling narrative. Heidecker and Wareheim’s expert character acting and bizarrely hilarious wordplay often evokes the episode’s comedy. The episode is jarring — but it’s only the beginning, as each following episode grows in style and ambition.
The latest episode, “Angel Man” — released last week — was accompanied by an extended, 22-minute version and may very well be the duo’s greatest television episode to date. While staying true to the beloved Tim and Eric aesthetic, “Angel Man” manages to play with heavy topics like mental illness and even pedophilia in a powerful way that only this duo could. The result is an engaging, albeit uncomfortable, ride; one that will likely leave viewers, even those unfamiliar with insane world of Tim and Eric, satisfied in all the strangest ways.
The next episode of “Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories” will be released next Monday at midnight. Be sure to check it out and see just how comedy’s most influential outsiders are defying their own standards.