Here’s the short version: If you need joy in your life — and we all do — then you should watch Detroiters (you can do so right now via Comedy Central). It’s fine if you haven’t seen the first season. You’ll go back.
Here’s the longer version: Comedy Central’s Detroiters, co-created by and starring real-life best friends and Detroit-lovers Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson, is a terrific and imaginative sitcom that is seemingly designed to lift audiences’ spirits with every silly joke. Sam Duvet (Richardson) and Tim Cramblin (Robinson) are insatiable as best friends and business partners; Tim is even married to Sam’s sister Chrissy (Shawntay Dalon). Together, the duo are bumbling businessmen who run the inherited, low-rent ad agency Cramblin Duvet with more heart and enthusiasm than everyone in Mad Men combined. They make cheap, cheesy commercials for local businesses — the sort that you’d come across late at night while flipping channels, wondering if it’s nothing more than an insomnia-fueled fever dream. Considering most TV watchers now fast-forward through commercials (or eschew them all together on streaming services), there’s an inherent sense of nostalgia within Detroiters. It almost feels wrong to DVR the series; I’d rather record it on a VHS tape.
Detroiters makes great use of its Motor City setting (it’s filmed in Detroit, and Tim’s house is owned by location manager George Constas), peppering in winking references that work even if you’re not overly familiar. Retired, real-life broadcaster Mort Crim’s one-liners are funny to everyone; even if you’re unaware of what “April in the D” is, and it takes nothing away from the parody in the season two premiere. The setting also lets the fictional agency work with small, struggling local businesses (some real, some not) because the show wouldn’t be as effective if they were only pitching giant corporations. Rather, it’s far more endearing to see Tim and Sam attempt to promote the Michigan Science Center with faux-testimonials from child actors (“This is fun and I’m not even a nerd!”).
Detroiters has a lot of big names behind it, with Lorne Michaels and Jason Sudeikis as executive producers, and features a number of notable comedic guest stars. This season includes Bobby Moynihan, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jerry Minor, and forever-favorite Tim Meadows, playing a terrible lawyer who advises his client to get bit by a dog before her court date. (“Just wait until they’re eating, and then you grab them by the crotch,” he says matter-of-factly.) But what makes Detroiters work so well is the natural chemistry between Richardson and Robinson, two friends who have clearly spent an unsettling amount of time together and know how to write for each other, and how to perfectly play to each others’ strengths. Richardson excels at the sort of bumbling, unaware comedy that’s showcased in the season two premiere, “Jefferson Porger.” The tiniest hint of acting success in a local commercial results in Sam’s rapidly-swelling ego, strutting around in increasingly-outrageous suits and doling out bad advice. Meanwhile, Robinson is wonderful at the louder, more absurd comedy — the upcoming “Trevor,” a standout episode, is a good example. Again and again, we see the often-gentle Tim go from zero to sixty with rage, only to reel himself right back in as if it didn’t happen, and it’s funny every single time.
But mainly, it’s the silly humor that makes Detroiters: the one-liners, the sight gags, the facial expressions, the ability to stack jokes on top of each other until they come giddily careening down. My absolute favorite television moment from 2017 was a throwaway gag about hot beer from the pilot episode. There’s a reaction shot in this season’s “Little Caesars,” centered around a ’90s sitcom, that I rewound at least five times, laughing until I cried. It’s why reviewing Detroiters is so hard — my notes for the five episodes I’ve screened are little more than a list of punchlines. More than analysis, I just kept thinking, “I can’t wait for people to watch this.” There’s the insult jokingly directed at their elderly secretary’s outfit, “You look like you’re about to go on the Titanic,” or the groan-worthy pun that Bob Seger’s diet tequila is called “Light Moves.”
It’s a downright goofy show, propelled by two characters with a lively, childlike energy who are guided by loyalty, not cynicism. And it would be really easy to make it a cynical show about idiots who can’t get their business together, but that isn’t Detroiters, and we’re all the better for it.