Even for fans of “Mr. Show,” the acclaimed sketch series that signed off in the late ’90s, “W/Bob & David” (actually “W/BOB & DAVID” on screen) is one of those reunion tours that no one really asked for or particularly needed. Yes, it’s nice seeing Bob Odenkirk, David Cross and their assorted collaborators (many of whom have been equally busy) back performing together. But the intervening years have brought an explosion of similar series, and nothing about the targets or topics feels distinctive enough here to merit much enthusiasm for this limited run of four episodes, plus a “Making of” special.
Granted, for Netflix, the modest investment likely will yield the requisite dividends, strictly in terms of publicity. Indeed, some of the service’s recent orders seem motivated heavily by marketing and the media ripple effect (witness the “Full House” and “Wet Hot American Summer” revivals), recognizing the attention nostalgia-driven enterprises are currently generating, where just wrangling everyone to show up is more than half the battle.
The two previewed episodes here provide a sense of the trademark irreverence, and structure, where one sketch either bleeds into the next or circles back later in the half-hour. Imbued with an absurdist bent, the vignettes are, not surprisingly, hit-miss, from Cross as a clueless filmmaker who insists on referring to slavery as “helper-ism” to a TED talk-type media guru who just keeps repeating the word “Digital!” over and over.
Cross, Odenkirk and the rest of the band (including high-profile guests like Jeffrey Tambor, Keegan-Michael Key and Paget Brewster) might enjoy having an opportunity to flex these muscles, but once one moves past the gang getting back together to put on a show, “W/Bob & David” doesn’t feel like anything to get all-caps about; rather, it’s merely an old-new variation of a show that already exists in a half-dozen varieties on channels like Comedy Central and IFC.
While there are, inevitably, some funny moments (and some really bad wigs), there’s also a sense that this was a weekend lark — a celebratory stage reunion somewhere, perhaps — that somehow got conflated into this mini-revival. Whatever the motivation, consider it one of those cases where the old maxim notwithstanding, there just wasn’t much reason for the “Show” to go on.