The chief complaint in this era of Peak TV is time. There’s a glut of programming, but on the positive side, a lot of it is really, really good. The problem is that shows can get swallowed up and forgotten about if they’re on a more obscure cable channel, or premiering among a group of much higher-profile series. TV critics are certainly not immune from getting buried under so many series that we miss out on occasional gems. But folks, when it comes to Comedy Central’s Detroiters, there are no excuses. This summer has no yet provided us with more great television than we can handle. There are many shows, but not so many that you can say you don’t have time for Detroiters. You do — and you should.
The series, which returns for 10 episodes, stars Detroit natives (and real-life best friends — this is an important point I’ll come back to) Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson, playing two Motor City Mad Men (Sam and Tim, respectively) who are often incompetent and occasionally brilliant in their work. Tim took over the ad agency, renamed Cramblin Duvet, after his father was driven insane by the work, and one of the best parts of the show is seeing the local ads that the two are producing. This isn’t Coca Cola or Lucky Strike or other national brands, but Jefferson Porger Suits or Devereaux Wigs. The big dog this year, the real rock star client, is the Michigan Science Center.
Detroiters is a series that is wonderfully specific about its location without ever alienating those who aren’t familiar with the nuances of Detroit. The guys occasionally watch the news, hosted by real-life (now retired) broadcaster Mort Crim (“Tonight: a local man is in dire need of a kidney, but he won’t tell anyone why. That’s a different story”), and some of the business featured in their ad campaigns are real, or at least reminiscent of local companies. There’s a storyline based on “April in the D,” a time of year when three of Detroit’s major professional sports teams all have games. If you Google it, you’ll also find an entire subculture of videos made in its honor. It’s funny whether you know the history of it or not, the same way a show like Atlanta can set a fantastic episode in the Alpine village of Helen, Georgia, which is both hysterical to locals (it is a real place) yet works on its own merit for those who don’t get the reference, because the reference isn’t the important thing.
One of Detroiters’ primary themes is that of inclusivity, which plays out beautifully in the friendship between Sam and Tim. It’s not that they don’t rib each other (like when Tim tells the Uber driver that he’s actually Sam, and threatens to do terrible things in the car to try and drive down Sam’s user rating), but it always comes back to love. It does help, maybe, that the two men are best friends and collaborators in real life, because their natural rapport is so exceptionally charming and believable on screen. Their characters — who live next door to each other; Tim is also married to Sam’s sister — are always incredibly supportive of one another, even when (for viewers) it seems ridiculous. And if there are moments of jealousy, ego, or resentment, they always resolve in sweet yet hilarious ways.
The show’s humor is its shining star, though, as it incorperates physical comedy with a touch of surrealism, and includes some of the best throwaway lines on TV (such as ordering Bob Seger’s “diet tequila” called “Light Moves,” or Tim’s mom knowledgeably explaining a drawing his brother did of a Liche Priest character he created. “He defeated Malog in the Battle of Light,” she says both matter-of-factly and somewhat proudly). The jokes are all exceptionally layered, and reward those who have watched the first season (yes, “Let’s Hustle” makes a return, and there’s also a storyline where Shiela finally gets her due). But even for casual viewers, the episodic jokes and the sheer earnestness that radiates from Sam and Tim should be enough of a hook. In a sea of dark TV, Detroiters is the light-hearted, smart comedy with a wonderfully sincere core that we need.
Detroiters Season 2 premieres with two back-to-back episodes Thursday, June 21st on Comedy Central.