I’ve made no secret of my deep and abiding love for the McElroy brothers in general, and not even on this blog. One of the few non-book and movie review posts I ever made was a review of the Balance arc of The Adventure Zone, a podcast in which the brothers and their dad play Dungeons and Dragon and created something truly incredible out of it. And then there’s their primary podcast, My Brother, My Brother, and Me, which is theoretically an advice show but really just a vehicle for their anarchic silliness. But more than any of that, I love the McElroys not only because they’re funny and hilarious, but because they’re warm and positive in a way that’s never treacly, but always makes me feel better about the world – something that’s been very welcome in the past couple of years.
So, look, it’s no surprise that I really loved the TV series the brothers got to make. I’m predisposed towards the brothers, so I can’t tell you if you’ll like it knowing nothing about them. But what I can tell you is that the show is every bit as funny and ridiculous and silly as the podcast, with the added joy that I get from watching utterly silly people being given a budget and using it in the most absurd ways possible – and that’s something I am always for.
I don’t know what it was like to be (the now defunct) Seeso and give the brothers money, only to find them using it for parades in honor of cockroaches, or killer boxes of clowns, or weird secret societies that meet at skating rinks. And I certainly don’t know what it was like to live in the brothers’ hometown of Huntington, Virginia, and have this insanity and silliness unleashed. But as a viewer, I was often in tears at the absurdity of it all, and how much the show seemed so often to be anchored in the sheer joy of three brothers making each other laugh. (There may be no better example of this than the “Safety Town” sequence, which begins with the brothers establishing control over a police-sponsored playground for children, and slowly escalating to Mad Max/The Warriors style mayhem until they’re asked to leave.)
But even apart from their gleeful silliness, what I really love about the McElroys – and what truly comes through in their TV series – is the deep affection they have not only for one another, but for the world in general. On the rare occasions that the McElroys ever make fun of someone, it’s pretty much themselves, as they do here when they make an effort to relate to teens in the most uncomfortably “hip” way possible. But more often, there’s an undercurrent of love and positivity to them; their humor is about silliness and absurdity, yes, but look at how Travis is encouraging the teens he’s mentoring, even in his ridiculous way, or how the boys always find time to talk to their dad as part of the show. Look at the genuine apology that comes after Justin and Griffin end up getting Travis so mad he hits one of them, and most of all, look at the truly genuine moment between Justin and his brothers, where he comments that even if it took a TV series to do it, at least he got to do something with his brothers for a while, and got them back home for a long time. That’s a sweet, human moment, and it’s always something the McElroys can be counted on to bring out in the world.
Of course, this is first and foremost a comedy, and it’s a deliriously funny one. From attempts to bust ghosts to efforts to seize control of their town (sidebar: each and every scene with the mayor of Huntington is an absolute treat, with his effort to provide the straight man to the brothers’ cackling insanity), from absurd secret societies to a surprise attack of Christmas spirit, the show is infused with ridiculous moments too wonderful to spoil, and anchored by the McElroys’ sense of glee that they’re getting away with any of this. It’s a wonderful slice of ridiculous fun, and even if another season never happens, at least we got this one out of it.