Detroit has fallen upon hard times of late. The city’s financial woes have been well-documented and the problems that befallen the city have become a political talking point for people truly unconcerned with the Motor City. Despite all the issues, Detroit is as American as it gets. The city is now center stage in the new Comedy Central series Detroiters, starring Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson, real life best friends and Detroit natives who co-created the show with Zach Kanin and Joe Kelly. Of the three episodes available to critics before its premiere (all of which are rough cuts), Detroiters proves itself to be a lively comedic series about inept advertising executives trying to find success in the Motor City. Think of Detroiters as Mad Men with comedic incompetence and a Detroit heartbeat.
In the pilot when we first encounter Sam Duvet (Richardson) and Tim Cramblin (Robinson), they’re overseeing a new ad for Eddie Champagne (Steve Higgins), “the hot tub king of Detroit.” They’re low-rent ad men but they have high-minded ambitions on how to reach the next level, such as forcefully pitching Carter Grant (Jason Sudeikis), the head of advertising for Chrysler, into giving them a meeting. Outside of work Sam and Tim are best friends. They live next door to each other. Tim has married Sam’s sister Chrissy (Shawntay Dalon). When the workday is over, they casually sit beside each other at the bar downing their beers and hoping to catch a glimpse of their handiwork on TV. The combination of questionable ideas and laziness seem to ensure that Sam and Tim will be stuck on the lower rungs of the advertising world for the immediate future.
The pilot for Detroiters does a strong job in establishing the dynamic between Sam and Tim, their ambitions and where they are in the world. It certainly doesn’t hurt that there’s a tangible chemistry between Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson. Watching these two characters go through the creative process yields comedic results, especially when they dip into some recently discovered amphetamines that retained their potency past their expiration date. Probably the biggest laughs come from the finished product in their advertising exploits, which over the first couple episodes seem to always be somewhat disastrous. Early on it feels as if the show is always allowing Sam and Tim to see success within their reach only to have the duo undermine themselves at each and every turn.
In the second episode, “Hog Riders,” Sam and Tim fail to acquire a much-needed production van when they’re seduced by a lightning fast motorcycle. The duo jets around town on their new toy as the music of the iconic Detroit band the MC5 plays over their exploits. Meanwhile, they’ve acquiesced the decision making of their company to the building security guard Ned (Christopher Powell) despite the fact it has been established that his ideas are horrific. Even then, Ned catches lightning in a bottle and the ad that he oversees proves to be a hit, making Sam and Tim’s firm a hot commodity. But the team of Sam and Tim use this newfound success as a means to allow them more time on their beloved motorcycle as Ned is now overseeing the projects of an array of clients, including one played by Malcom-Jamal Warner. As established in the pilot, success for Sam and Tim is short-lived, especially Ned’s moment in the sun.
The third and final episode available to critics, “Sam the Man,” is the weakest of the bunch because it sees the characters getting away from the world of advertising. Instead the episode focuses on the Sam’s search for romance and Tim’s habit of accidentally ruining any potential romantic encounter for Sam before they even begin. This leads to a situation where Sam is alone in a posh hotel bar and takes home a middle-aged woman. However, when their romantic tryst is over, she leaves Sam a wad of bill on the nightstand. Just like that Sam has unwittingly become a male prostitute. “Sam the Man” features some absurdly comedic moments but never reaches the same highs as its predecessors and I feel that is rooted in its diversion away from the world of advertising, though the episode does feature one ridiculous and misguided ad.
Over the course of its three episodes, Detroiters shows a lot of promise going forward. It’s greatly aided by the fact that the two best friends are able to convey that chemistry to their fictional avatars. Detroiters blends some raunchy humor with a bit of heart in the bond between the two hapless ad men. Things are certainly helped by the fact that this show really does have a Detroit feel, from shooting on location to the soundtrack that employs various Detroit bands, such as the aforementioned MC5 and Death. With seven episodes left in its inaugural season, Detroiters shines as a silly, brazen piece of comedic storytelling that places its characters front and center.
Detroiters debuts on Comedy Central on Tuesday, February 7th at 10:30pm.
Over the course of its first three episodes, Detroiters establishes its brazen comedic tone as Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson play hapless ad men that are also best friends trying to make a living in this Motor City comedy.