Remembering ‘The Detour,’ One Of The Most Underappreciated TV Comedies Of Recent Years

When it was announced that Search Party would be moving from TBS over to HBO Max (premiering on June 25th), I felt an inkling of hope that HBO Max might one day resurrect another phenomenal TBS series that was recently canceled after four seasons called Detour.

Detour is one of the funniest, most underappreciated comedies of the Peak TV era, and it manages to be exactly that without relying on a high-concept premise or an overly clever conceit. Detour is a meat-and-potatoes comedy, a supercharged, half-hour version of National Lampoon’s Vacation crossed with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Created and written by husband and wife team, and former Daily Show correspondents Jason Jones and Samantha Bee, Detour is a road-trip comedy that delivers jokes, physical comedy, and gross-out gags at breakneck speed. But it’s also a family comedy with an occasional dose of real heart.

Jason Jones and Natalie Zea (Justified) play Nate and Robin Parker, and in the opening season, Nate surprises his wife and children with a vacation road trip from Syracuse to Florida, after he refunded their plane tickets because he needed the money (due to being fired from his job for attempting to blow the whistle on a defective product). The story of his termination — and subsequent arrest — plays out in the non-linear storyline over the course of the first season.

Zea, meanwhile, is much funnier than I anticipated that she’d be based on her work on Justified, in part because she has an unexpected gift for physical comedy and in part because I like to think she’s playing a version of Samantha Bee. During podcasts, Bee has mentioned that, in her younger years, she was criminally wild, and I get the sense that Robin is what might have happened to Bee if she’d followed along on that same path and had never had kids, only here: Zea plays that role and has kids. They are Griswold-like children: Clueless but curious about sex and drugs, but also wiser than their parents when it comes to most parenting decisions.

You’re the Worst debuted several years ago as the sort of anti-romcom romantic comedy. Similarly, The Detour is sort of an anti-family family comedy: Robin and Nate are very bad at parenting (in fact, they lost their daughter for nearly an entire season), but there is something often endearing and sweet about how bad they are as parents. Even four years after its debut, the writing and the perspective felt fresh, and while it did trade in dick and vomit jokes, it’s a lot smarter than it lets on.

‘The Detour,’ which ran for four seasons from 2016 to 2019, is currently available to stream on Hulu.