Dosvidanya, DELOCATED

7 07 2013

I’m still recovering from the end of Delocated, an Adult Swim show by Jon Glazer . . . like a lot of other shows on Adult Swim, most people seem to love it or hate it. 

I was sorry to see the show go. I caught the “Finale” by accident one evening while working out in front of cable TV, and it made a hell of an impression on me. After all these months, I think I finally understand why.

“Delocated” satirized reality TV. 

Some people rolled their eyes at this, with an obvious reaction: “What’s the point of satire or parody being targeted at something that’s so ridiculous to start with? Can you even do it?”

The assumption is that satire does sort of require that its target have a certain level of dignity, or pretense of dignity, or history of dignity, or (at least) delusions of dignity. Reality TV has none of those. . . so surely, that makes it impossible to satirize?

No, it doesn’t. Either that, or “Delocated” did the impossible. 

Jon Glazer did this by trying to be as ridiculous as possible. This, by itself, is not so surprising; people try it in comedy all the time. What set him apart was how he did it. 

He didn’t just try to portray reality TV as ridiculous, or try to push to some “new frontier” of crazy on the front of reality TV. He left reality TV just as it was — he showed it as any other sort of (somewhat risky) business with moments of craziness, run by more or less rational people who often made reckless decisions. TV viewers have seen TV executives portrayed that way for decades. . . no one would consider that ridiculous.

The ridiculous part was having the reality show be about a family in the Witness Protection Program who willingly chose to be on camera 24-7; that they wore ski masks and spoke in garbled voices 24-7; that they were followed around by FBI agents 24-7; and that, in all other ways, they went about their business in a perfectly normal way that obviously made them the easiest murder targets that any Russian hit man could ask for.

After Season 1, the pitiful, bumbling Yvgeny wasn’t cutting it as a villain, so he was pushed aside by Sergei, another assassin for the Russian mob: but this one was all business. He never said anything funny, had a strong streak of sadism, and was cold as ice when it came to killing people (which he did a lot).

Light-hearted humor would go to sheer terror, and back again, in the blink of an eye. . . at levels that most TV producers would never go for. 

To me, it proved that the best targets for satire aren’t authority figures, pompous people, or other easy targets that we all learned to satirize in eighth grade. 

The juiciest targets for satire are . . . situations!




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