TV

An Ode To Anna Kendrick’s Sex-Doll Comedy, ‘Dummy,’ The Quibi Show That Could Have Kept Going

We’re gathered here today to mourn the loss of Quibi, the $2 billion entertainment app that promised us quick-bite video content that could be streamed anywhere — except on your TV. Quibi, like all beautiful things, was doomed from the beginning. It banked on the promise of a world that existed pre-pandemic when we would take subways and buses and long car rides to work. A world where we’d eat lunch in what the Pilgrims called “cubicles,” and mindlessly stare at our smartphones, hoping to avoid talking about the upcoming election with our co-workers.

Quibi, due to the absence of commutes and various other reasons, is no longer. But one of its strangest, border-line offensive creations will live on in the hearts and minds of those it touched. Of those who found joy in its quirky comedy, empowerment in its subversive messaging, shameful interest in its constant dialogue about Rick & Morty creator Dan Harmon’s many kinks… we’re talking about that sex doll show, guys.

And honestly, why shouldn’t we be talking about sex doll sitcoms right now? The world is being ravaged by disease, Netflix canceled GLOW, and Prince William is just a hair’s breadth away from becoming KFC’s new mascot, tentatively dubbed Sir Thick Thighs. A comedy in which Anna Kendrick befriends a nihilistic, animated f*ck toy that becomes her problematic relationship therapist and life coach over the course of a 10-episode season really doesn’t seem that strange these days. Maybe that’s why, despite our best efforts, I came to love this weird science experiment, birthed from the enviably perverse brain of writer Cody Heller (you know, Dan Harmon’s girlfriend) and incubated at an upstart streaming platform with too much money and not enough direction.

Dummy couldn’t and wouldn’t have been made anywhere else, which might be the best compliment we can bestow here at Quibi’s graveside service because the show — which sees Kendrick playing Cody and Search Party’s Meredith Hagner voicing Barbara, the sex doll haunting her waking nightmare – is oddly charming and incredibly sharp.

Cody, like many on-the-cusp millennial women, is navigating an overpowering relationship with the nagging feeling that she just isn’t accomplishing anything with her life. Her boyfriend is a prolific TV writer, a god among sound-booth technicians and cartoon-loving criminals. She’s dragging her way through a script about a tooth-fairy posing as a stripper (or a stripper posing as a tooth fairy, we’re still not sure) and consuming excessive amounts of expired melatonin gummies.

But her interactions with Barbara, the sex doll her boyfriend has stuffed in his closet, aren’t the consequences of out-of-date drug use. It’s her own psyche using this once-inanimate object to dole out some harsh truths about her aimlessness and unhealthy codependence. Cody doesn’t realize that at first. Neither do we. But that’s the quiet genius of this show — that in the midst of giving her boyfriend’s sex doll a bubble bath, so she can clean out years’ worth of splooge buildup from her prosthetic vagina, we’re treated to cuttingly honest quotes like this:

Quibi

Is it dramatic, ridiculously surreal, over-blown feminist propaganda? Yes, but it’s also the kind of side-splitting truth-telling that so many stand-up comics claim that “cancel culture” has robbed us of.

And yes, this show’s bizarre plot and insistence on reiterating Harmon’s foot fetish is laughable — you could come to it just for the comedy and leave satisfied — but it’s got weighty, dramatic moments too. Moments of brilliance really, where it stops relying on its inherent zaniness and leans into more important things. Like when Barbara is strung up naked in the back of a sex shop, so a technician can point out her various flaws — the aging of her face, the onset baldness, the worn-out p*ssy — while Cody, once indifferent if not outright hostile to this competitor for her boyfriend’s attention, looks on horrified. She’s treated as an object — again, an on-the-nose metaphor — but it’s Cody’s reaction to the experience, her realization that she internalized and regurgitated the same misogyny that’s so clearly on display by a pervert who jacks off into strangers’ sex dolls at his place of employment.

It’s a kind of wake-up call, one that leads Cody to make Barbara her new roommate and writing partner after her boyfriend tosses her in a dumpster, and a homeless man nearly has her recycled to save the aquatic animals. Do you know how many dolphins die each year from ingesting the silicone sex dolls are made of? Us either.

They brainstorm new spec scripts, they go on girl’s trips, they survive gas station robberies, they try to seduce their 14-year-old neighbor, and, eventually, they have sex. It’s all strange, uncomfortable, cringe-inducing comedy, but it’s elevated by its truth. We’ve all watched plenty of grossly funny, boundary-pushing comedy shows in the past — shows usually helmed and starring men doing truly awful things, making offensive jokes, mining humor from disgusting material — and we’ve enjoyed some of them. But few disguise their bawdiness as anything more than toe-the-line jokes meant to spark attention-grabbing outrage (or at least, clickable viral headlines).

Dummy feels different. It’s still gross and crude and full of genitals — Barbara likes wearing her old pink taco around her neck, like a medallion — but it’s got heart. It’s a look at female friendships we haven’t seen before on TV, one that uses their microaggressions and blatant bullying to highlight how, when they’re great, they can be the most powerful motivator and reassuring force in a woman’s life. And when they’re not, they can feel like your boyfriend’s beloved sex doll tearing down your self-esteem and suggesting you get a forehead enlargement.

It’s a show I’m surprisingly devastated to see go — not just because Kendrick and Hagner deliver some truly mesmerizing comedic timing playing two women who both love and hate each other — but because it felt like it was just finding its feet… maybe not. Maybe Cody Heller only intended for the show to run for one season. After all, how much material is there to mine once you’ve banged your boyfriend’s sex doll and brought her to a TV pilot meeting? If that’s the case, we’re glad Quibi’s ending, and Dummy can serve as its contribution and atonement in equal measure.

But if not, if there’s more there, I’d like to make it known: I’ll follow this sex doll anywhere.

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