Peacock’s ‘MacGruber’ TV series is wonderfully meaningless

macgruber-tv-series.jpeg
macgruber-tv-series.jpeg

If you’re a fan of the Will Forte cult movie MacGruber, there is no reason to expect that you will not be a fan of the subsequent TV series on Peacock. It possesses the same sense of humor, the same threaded plot, and many of the same characters (both Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillippe return). There are moments of pure meaningless joy in MacGruber, moments that will leave you in stitches, and moments of comic genius.
Then there is everything else. To what extent you want to enjoy MacGruber depends on how much you enjoy MacGruber’s sense of humor, and how much patience you have for everything else.

See: MacGruber is based on a SNL sketch, and not even a full 3-5 minute sketch. SNL pepper three or four a minute MacGruber divided into one episode. It’s the pure, undistilled form, and the small doses are basically perfection: Setup, joke, explosion.

Will Forte took that sketch and he turned it into a self-conscious action movie spoof with a great cast and a lot of nonsense and released it in 2010. It was a bomb that only earned $ 9 million. Still, it grew into a cult film and found a fanbase, though I would be hard-pressed to tell you if it was a big fanbase or a smaller, very vocal one that mostly consisted of a lot of online people and entertainment writers. There was definitely an appetite for a sequel to MacGruber among entertainment writers who would probably want it to exist by repeatedly asking if there would be one. However, I’m not sure that even these entertainment writers had the necessary follow-up (the Peacock series, released a month ago, has only 17 reviews from critics (only 8 from Top Critics) on Rotten Tomatoes and only 30 user reviews). I do not know what the streaming numbers are on this (Peacock does not release them), but the social media buzz has been virtually non-existent and I was only reminded that it was out of an exuberant Adam Scott Instagram post last week .

Still, if you love a lot of penis / semen / poop jokes that rarely fit the context in which they are delivered, it’s hard to go wrong with MacGruber. It takes up several years after the original, which did not have the happy ending that we could have expected after the credits rolled. MacGruber was convicted of the murder of Val Kilmer’s Cunth (and the desecration of his body), and during the trial he tried to throw Piper (Ryan Phillipe) and Vicki (Kristen Wiig) under the bus. Piper lost her career and works as a driving school teacher, while Vicki has moved on and is in a relationship with General Barrett Fasoose (Lawrence Fishburne), with whom she would like to have a child. Fasoose also happens to be the same man who pulls MacGruber out of jail. A new villain, Enos Queeth (Billy Zane), has kidnapped the president’s daughter, and the only person he wants to swap her with is MacGruber.

It’s a suicide mission, but MacGruber apparently survives. He reunites with Piper and Vicki to prevent Enoth Queeth from using a dangerous weapon (in MacGruber’s possession) to kill millions of people. He is sometimes successful. Sometimes he is not. There are twists and turns, and good guys revealing themselves as evil. Maya Rudolph acts, like Sam Elliot, as MacGruber’s father.

The plot, as it is, hardly matters. It’s the jokes that matter, and they land well over 60 percent of the time, and the best ones often involve artfully disgusting sex scenes with Kristen Wiig. It’s a joke that stretches beyond the breaking point, but it’s also the point. If you tell the same joke over and over again, people will laugh the first time, they might laugh the second time, they will get more and more annoyed the next few times before they get directly angry, and then they will come back to laugh again. 10th time you tell the joke. MacGruber operates almost exclusively in the realm of the 10th time. The actors – especially Forte and Wiig – are completely committed to the absurdity of it, and therein lies the remaining joy of MacGruber: Seeing great comic actors give up their dignity in the service of a laugh.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not.


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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.


Source image source: Peacock

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