Starring Steve Markle, Jeff Kassel, Joe Pingue, Kim Schraner
Thursdays @ 10:30 PM
For the first five minutes or so, Testees seems full of a Judd Apatow-esque kind of potential. Main characters Ron (Steve Markle) and Peter (Jeff Kassel) are goofy-looking everymen living in an apartment together with no money and less class. The two exchange awkward banter that’s a bit crass but also strangely endearing. Most importantly, it gets the point across: This duo of bemused slackers needs cash fast. There’s even an Office-style opening.
And with that we’re off into the main premise of the show and what FX hopes will keep viewers tuning in. As it turns out, Ron and Peter have just quit a job a Testico, a local facility that tests out new drugs and products on willing human lab rats. The probable structure of each episode is clear from the outset: Ron and Peter head to the lab and get a suppository — complete with an unnecessarily lengthy robot rape gag in this debut — then the two wait for unexpected but hilarious side effects to ensue. It’s a concept that lends itself more to gross-out scenes and fart jokes than dialogue-based comedy, so it’s no surprise that as soon as the two enter Testico, whatever charming humor they had is immediately thrown out the window.
With a minor spoiler warning for anyone who cares, the whole first episode revolves around Peter being injected with a formula that appears to make him pregnant. Cue a seemingly endless parade of tired jokes about being with child and dumb males just not getting it. Oh, he has strange food cravings? Hilarious! What’s that, the buddies are clueless about raising a child and decide to practice feeding and changing diapers on the overgrown next-door neighbor? Wacky! If all of that wasn’t lame enough, the comedic climax of the episode is an extended fart joke. Oh boy….
The problems with Testees extend even beyond the overplayed and uninteresting attempts at humor, though. Even in the popular new breed of awkward comedies such as The Office or Superbad, viewers are still given reasons to care for the main characters. Michael Scott may alternate between being a goofball and a complete asshole, but one of his other personalities is heartbreakingly sympathetic. Not so with Testees. All of the women in the first episode seem concerned with sex alone, and all the men are self-serving jerks, including Peter and Ron.
As with any ongoing series, it’s totally possible that the major problems I had with Testees‘ debut could get fixed. Maybe the cast will get fleshed out and become more likable — if nothing else, the briefly promising intro shows that the actors have the ability to pull off entertaining everymen. Maybe the comedy will mature beyond the obvious and the disgusting. Maybe there’s something more interesting they can do with this lab rat concept that I’m just not seeing. But given the quality of this first episode, I won’t be seeing whether or not that’s the case either way.