×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Drunk History

Clever idea from Funny or Die turns sloppy and slurred in leap to Comedy Central

With:
Narrators: Allan McLeod, Matt Gourley, Eric Edelstein.

Mixing an extra ingredient into the formula “tragedy plus time equals comedy” — namely, adding booze — “Drunk History” is a great title, clever concept and numbingly bad TV show. Adapted from a Web series produced for Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s “Funny or Die,” it’s a star-studded spoof of historical programs, teeming with recognizable faces in silly reenactments. But the real twist is in featuring narrators who become progressively intoxicated as they recount these well-known events, in one instance to the point of vomiting. “Drunk History” certainly isn’t that distasteful, but since it’s not particularly Funny, what was that other option again?

As constructed for TV, the first half-hour features three genuine historical stories — focusing on Watergate, the Lincoln assassination and Richard Nixon meeting Elvis — as separately explained by imbibing narrators.

Yet while watching someone get stinking drunk as they try to remain articulate can be fleetingly amusing, other than the slurred words, there’s nothing inherently funny about the stories as recounted, or for that matter seeing Stephen Merchant dressed as Lincoln, Jack Black squeezing into an Elvis outfit or Bob Odenkirk approximating Richard Nixon.

The whole exercise has a distinct homemovie feel to it — a small-ball mentality suited to short bursts on the Web, perhaps, but an utter waste of empty, dimwitted calories blown up and out for television.

The fundamental question for Comedy Central, though, is that beyond being in business with the big-name production auspices, what’s the point? Presenting the show as a spoof of the kind of fare found on History or Discovery is too precious and narrow, especially since those programs are becoming less numerous as such channels chase younger demos.

So all that’s really left is watching various celebs play dress-up. Granted, they appear to be enjoying themselves doing it, but much like sitting next to a cheerful, sloppy drunk while you’re stone cold sober, the net effect looks like a whole lot more fun for the participants than it is for the viewer.

More Reviews

  • Concert Review: Yoko Ono Saluted By

    Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute at Disney Hall

    Yoko One was — is — nothing if not an artist of many facets, as someone who started out in the most avant-garde corners of the visual and performance art worlds and ended up having a flair for conventional pop songwriting. Both sides, the disrupter and the sentimentalist, were celebrated in a wide-ranging tribute concert [...]

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • ABBY'S -- "Pilot" Episode 101 --

    TV Review: 'Abby's' Starring Natalie Morales

    “Abby’s,” NBC’s new comedy about a cranky bartender (Natalie Morales) and her inner circle of regulars, is aware of the inevitable “Cheers” comparisons. Created by “New Girl” writer Josh Malmuth and executive produced by uber-producer (and unabashed “Cheers” superfan) Mike Schur, “Abby’s” therefore makes a few key choices in order to differentiate itself as its [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Jenny Lewis

    Album Review: Jenny Lewis' 'On the Line'

    Early on in her new record, Jenny Lewis warns us that Mercury’s retrograde wrath is far from over. Her cautionary words form the conceit of “Wasted Youth,”  a lament dressed in melody and charm. With the prospect of planetary bad luck looming, Lewis spends the chorus listing some of the ways in which we doom [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content