As a musical act, Garfunkel and Oates (Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci) have cornered a special type of comedy. They write catchy songs with smart, funny lyrics, and can say the most vulgar things while still appearing cute as buttons. Their YouTube videos, which started simple—the duo would sit on a couch and sing about things like being 29 versus being 31 and giving hand jobs—eventually became blown-out, MTV-style music videos for songs like “This Party Took a Turn for the Douche” and “The Loophole.” The women were entertaining in both the simplest and most outrageous settings, so I was confident in their ability to carry their own series, which premieres tomorrow night on IFC. I was disappointed to walk away entirely underwhelmed.
“Speechless”—which isn’t the premiere, rather the season’s third episode; IFC leaked it as a preview—starts with a pretty hilarious and interesting premise. Our titular duo decides to pull a “Little Mermaid” and see how long they can date a couple of goofy, self-centered guys without saying a single word. It goes longer than anyone could have imagined as the ladies use flirty eyes and hand gestures to respond when necessary. Neither man notices they haven’t said a single word three dates in, something the two could have turned on its head as a call to female empowerment. Instead both end up walking away from their respective relationships completely embarrassed. T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) as Riki’s talkative, oversensitive boyfriend David steals every scene he’s in. It’s a bummer that the ladies couldn’t hold their own a little better (and that Miller isn’t a regular on the show).
As a fan, what I was really waiting for was an exciting musical interlude that would take the songs I love to a new level. But the only instance of a song and dance was a completely out of place rendition of “Sports, Go, Sports,” and I much prefer the sports fan video on YouTube to the gymnastics-inspired romp they paired the song with on the show. It seems like they’re trying to create some intersection of Flight of the Conchords and Broad City, both brilliant shows that are near and dear to my heart, and the result is some middling version that doesn’t quite have the charming magical realism of Conchords or Broad City‘s brash humor.
I’m not suggesting anyone give up on these ladies just yet—there were a few laugh-out-loud moments that shouldn’t be dismissed. Like when David finds out Riki was lying (by silent omission) about being an orphan and shouts, “You’re just some bitch with parents!” But unless they step up their sitcom game soon, they may want to leave their legacy on the Garfunkel and Oates YouTube channel.
Garfunkel and Oates, IFC, Thursdays at 9 PM (premieres 8/7).