Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Review: The High Road with Doug Benson

WHAT: Two episodes of a series bundled as a special
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: The comedy and twitter stylings of Doug Benson
WHERE TO FIND IT: G4TV, airing seemingly at random

So the story behind The High Road with Doug Benson is that G4TV had been airing Benson's movie, Super High Me, nonstop for a few years and it generated decent ratings and feedback so they basically asked for more of that.

The High Road isn't really quite that; while Super High Me was a fairly focused documentary, this series just follows Benson and fellow (yet sober) comedian Graham Elwood on the road together. It's kind of an odd mashup of standup appearances and run-ins with the locals in the towns they're performing in, all punctuated by Benson's many tweets. As far as structure goes, it's kinda all over the place, but the whole thing is so laid back and easygoing it's difficult to fault it for lacking focus.

There have been many documentaries and miniseries about comedians on the road over the years -among them the now-classic Comedians of Comedy, the passable Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Tour, Ray Romano's 95 Miles to Go and the odious Dane Cook's Tourgasm; the appeal of these things seems to boil down to how interesting, funny and likable the comedian(s) you're following are. Nobody likes Dane Cook, for example, because he seems like he's kind of an asshole, and his road documentary just fuels that notion. Ray Romano seems sort of oppressively normal and sedate, and so his (very boring) road movie reinforces that. With The High Road, Doug Benson's half-lidded, witty appeal is what carries the entire thing and prevents it from being dull or uninteresting. If you like Benson's personality - which you have ample access to thanks to his many podcast appearances, his I Love Movies show or even just following his Twitter account - then this will feel very familiar and pleasant. There's very little about it that seems forced or gimmicky; it is very basic in premise and execution. And that's fine. The utter lack of pretension or "intensity" makes it a lot more palatable than many of the other "comedians on the road" projects out there.

As this thing presently exists, it's 2 half-hour episodes of what is obviously intended to be a series, packaged together as one hourlong special. Notably they didn't edit out the "previously on" segment at the half-hour mark, and the second episode doesn't offer any sort of a "conclusion", you're just left waiting for more. Hopefully G4 will reach whatever ratings benchmark they're looking for with this and just air the rest of the episodes. The High Road isn't anything groundbreaking, but it is funny and entertaining and engaging in an easygoing way, and really that's all anyone could ever want.

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