Poor Scholars Email Exchange: Delocated

delocated BY SCOTT PHILLIPS and ALEX RUSSELL

In honor of the series finale of Delocated, which aired last night on Adult Swim, Poor Scholars’ Scott Phillips and Alex Russell traded emails to discuss the series and make some predictions for the finale.

Delocated is criminally underrated comedic television. Former Conan writer and sketch performer Jon Glaser is the producer, creator and star of Delocated as “Jon”, a self-centered former architect that is placed in the witness protection program along with his family after “Jon” testified after the Russian mob during a murder trial. “Jon” and his family are offered a chance to film a reality television show, while being in witness protection, and take the chance as they’re each outfitted with ski masks and vocal modifiers that make their voices sound incredibly deep. “Jon” pushes his family into doing the show against their will and the network that airs the reality show (which is called Delocated, hence the title) soon realizes that big ratings can also be had if they follow the Russian mobsters, the Mirminsky crime family, that are trying to kill “Jon” and his family.

If that plot sounds completely ridiculous, it is. And it goes on for three seasons as “Jon” and his family try to live their lives while Russian mobsters try to kill them and the people around them. The show is definitely classified as “alternative comedy” to the mainstream, but if you enjoy deadpan humor, mockumentaries, and can follow the ridiclous plot, this show is well worth your time.

To the emails!

Scott: Well, Alex, the Delocated series finale airs is finally airing on Adult Swim and I’m incredibly sad to see it ending. I think I’ve burned through my Season 1 and 2 DVDs seven or eight times introducing the show to people or re-watching episodes that I wanted to see again.

Delocated might seriously rate among my five favorite shows of all-time, which is an incredibly strong statement to make, but the comedic writing and acting is top notch, they somehow made a mockumentary that didn’t seem tired or forced and they implemented new characters (Mighty Joe Jon: The Black Blonde and Sergei Mirminsky are my two favorite characters and they didn’t add them to the cast until season two) with ease around an astonishing series-long performance from star/creator Jon Glaser.

We’ll delve deeper into the show shortly, but what are your initial thoughts on Delocated as a series?

Alex: First off, I’m also sad to see it go. Delocated is unique in the TV landscape, and we’re poorer to have lost it.

It’s interesting you mention that you introduced this show to so many people. In the wake of the news of the show getting a proper ending, I’ve tried to get some like-minded friends interested with essentially no success. It’s shocking the show did as well as it did. It had three seasons in five years that essentially ran at random. It stars a guy who wears a full mask (he has said in interviews he draws a distinction between his mask and a balaclava) and never shows his face. Almost all of the cast dies every season. It draws a lot of the humor from a constantly changing premise that is at times hard to follow on purpose.

The uniqueness of the show that turns many people of is of course the root of it all, though. Nothing made me laugh harder than the insane tone shifts between dumb songs about “Jon” bringing in a potato skins bar and then cutting to overdone blood splatter scenes and street murders. It’s not like anything else that is on TV now, but I hope people won’t be afraid to take the risks they did. I just recently finished Season 3, and in one episode “Jon’s” girlfriend’s mom claims she is dead, only to have her appear alive, unexplained in the next episode. It’s clear the joke is that “Jon” doesn’t want to ask too many questions so he can save the relationship. What are your favorite little moments that might seem wrong, but are actually part of the landscape of Delocated?

Scott: Interesting that you’ve had little success getting people interested in Delocated. It’s been an uphill battle for me. Thankfully, my roommate Ciz gets a kick out of it, but I’ve had some other friends enjoy it as well. But I’ve had other friends absolutely HATE Delocated too, so I can certainly understand where you’re coming from.

And you’re right about the success of Delocated; it’s surprising that the show made it this long — to say the least. The pilot was filmed and aired a full 10 months before the first season aired and at times the pilot seems like a completely different show all together.

Which brings me to your question: What are your favorite little moments that might seem wrong, but are actually part of the landscape of Delocated?

“Jon”, the main character, moved into a “swanky New York City loft” with his family in the pilot and they are greeted by Jay, the doorman with a fake mustache. While the fake mustache joke is amusing, when Jay is introduced in episode two of Season 1 after the pilot (10 months later) it is clear that the original Jay has been replaced with a new Jay, who is also wearing a fake mustache.

“Jon” questions the “new” Jay and asks him about the fake mustache and questions his validity as a doorman as Delocated is essentially reacting (hilariously) to the casting of a different actor for Jay than the pilot. I also enjoy how “Jon” will casually mention interests of his that later become entire storylines for episodes and an intregal part of the Delocated universe (like when he casually mentions his love of his favorite sandwich place, Nicky’s Grinders, in the first season only for Nicky’s Grinders to have an episode revolve around it in the second season).

There are many, many more subtle things like that throughout the show which makes repeat viewings even more enjoyable.

My question for you, Alex: Was there a specific episode or moment that got you interested in Delocated? We mentioned the uphill battle for viewership, but I’m interested to see how you got into the show.

I was introducted to Delocated by my buddy Ricky and he showed me the “Dog Mayor” episode, which is still my favorite to this day, and I’ve enjoyed the show ever since.

Alex: You’ve always mentioned the “Dog Mayor” bit, and that’s absolutely required viewing.

But what jumps out to me is his prank show “Jon He Does It.”I originally caught Delocated on one of the weird on-and-off rerun binges they used to show on Adult Swim. That makes it really difficult to follow, since the plot is purposefully complicated.

“Jon’s” life is supposed to change all the time. That’s what makes the whole idea that America is watching this dumb reality show that much funnier: how could they possibly follow this plot?”Jon He Does It” is one of a dozen of their “show-within-a-show” bits where “Jon” is supposedly given a prank show. “Jon’s” his typical asshole self and either doesn’t understand the concept of a prank or just can’t be bothered to consider what it should look like. It’s brilliantly stupid in a way that they usually need a million props to do.Part of the appeal for me is it’s one of their best songs, the theme for “Jon He Does It” is silly.

Music plays a really huge role in the show. Favorite song?

Scott: You have always enjoyed “Jon He Does It” and would bust out the theme song to that episode all the time at work.

Just to briefly touch on your “show-within-a-show” point, I absolutely love the Face/Off episode (titled “Mole”) in which “Jon” and the man who is attempting to kill him, Sergei Mirminsky switch places. More on that in a moment.

I’m so happy you mentioned the music of Delocated because I was definitely going to bring it up. Since “Jon” has a huge ego and fancies himself a showman, there are so many amazing songs and even lines of songs throughout Delocated.

My favorites:

  • Brother’s Weekend“- Watching the Mirminksy brothers tour the Idaho potato farms with that goofy “bro-thers week-end” song going in the background absolutely kills me every time. I often sing “Brother’s Weekend” around my friends since I hang out with a lot of sets of brothers much to their confusion and my delight.
  • Kim’s Hand” – Whenever “Jon” gets sentimental and emotional he busts out the recorder and starts playing; this is my favorite among his recorder moments.
  • JJ Jeans Jingle” – I realize this is only one line of a jingle with no music, but it’s too good not to include. “Jon’s” girlfriend Kim ripping the jingle is great.

I really enjoy when “Jon” breaks out into random song throughout the show as he’s doing certain mundane activities or to accentuate certain ideas that he’s pitching to someone else. Jon Glaser just seems to have a natural knack for this.

But going back to the Mirminsky’s, we haven’t really touched on them very much and they’re a big part of the show, since they’re trying to kill “Jon” and it’s the major storyline of the series. What are your thoughts on the Mirminsky crime family and their associates — including comedian Todd Berry?

Alex: I forgot all about the jeans episode. It just reminds me how much I hate “Jon” and how frustrated everyone around him is. It feels like what that Dwight spinoff show from The Office would have felt like, except this one’s funny.

The Mirminsky family is interesting because the show’s about them in a lot of ways, too. Sergei is terrifying in every way (Glaser said on the Sklar brothers’ podcast last week that he actually sounds normal in real life, which is kinda surprising) and is contrasted nicely with the rest of the family. Todd Barry (how’d you nail ‘Mirminsky’ and swap the A and E in Todd Barry?) is an insane choice for the show, but the show’s all about insane choices. They have three relatively well-known comedians barely in costume in this crime family (Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry, and Amy Schumer). One of their best jokes is that they essentially never miss a chance to address him as the full thing, “Comedian Todd Barry.” It’s so stupid, but it’s in tone with all the rest.

Todd Barry’s stage persona is just like all this. His Twitter is him constantly restating that he’s an amazing comic. He just did a tour that was entirely crowd work. I went and saw it here in Chicago, and he spent an hour and a half just talking about how amazing he was. It sounds annoying, but it’s not – it’s part of a persona that works. Dane Cook jumped around, Louis CK makes fun of himself, Todd Barry essentially mocks what a comic would sound like if they never stopped being proud of their accomplishments. He’s funny, but the character is also awesome.

I think the show was at its best when it was putting serious people in ridiculous situations. Really, I think everything is best when that happens. The whole stand up comic subplot is a great example of this: it folds in on itself because Eugene Mirman is a comic in real life and now he’s playing a private mobster who can’t be a comic. Then it works again when he’s a terrible comic. Then it works AGAIN when people inexplicably love it. Jokes on jokes on jokes.

Sorry to bust on you about a comic’s name, but imagine I messed up who was on a Chicago mixtape. It’s “Aesop Rocky,” right? He wrote that “Pyramids” thing, right? The kids love these hips and hops.

Finale is this week. How’s this whole show end? Predictions?

Scott: Damn you, autocorrect. Sigh….

Not surpring to me that Sergei appears “normal” in real life. When Steve Cirbus (the actor that plays Sergei) plays “Jon” in the Face/Off episode it’s startling how different he is than when he’s in the Sergei character and that’s part of what makes it so funny for me. You have this deranged Russian serial killer, complete with ridiculously violent outbursts filled with bloodshed and manical laughter (seriously, watch this scene and you’ll wonder how the hell this is a comedy) and all of the sudden he’s playing “Jon” and he has no Russian accent, no angry outbursts, and he’s playing the goofy, self-centered asshole that “Jon” is as a character.

Steve Cirbus’ versatility on the show is part of the reason Sergei is among my favorite characters; he’s just able to flip that switch and be ultra intense in an instant or he’s playing someone else’s character seamlessly in another episode.

As far as the finale is concerned: How the hell do you predict the completely unpredictable? So many characters get killed on Delocated that I’m not sure if the final episode is going to be a bloodbath or if it’s just going to include a totally ridiculous plot twist that we didn’t see coming. Probably somewhere in the middle.

We do know a few things:

  1. “Jon” has been kidnapped by Sergei.
  2. “Jon” wakes up with a case of “full-blown amnesia” in New York.
  3. “Jon” is still a self-centered asshole even though he has amnesia (as evidenced in the trailer for the finale when “Jon” asks a stranger if he looks like a “Mike or a Craig” and doesn’t even give the stranger a chance to respond as “Jon” starts giving himself a “sweet” nickname.)

So based on what we know, I have a feeling we get more details on why the Mirminsky’s are after “Jon” and what actually happened to lead “Jon” and his family to the witness protection program. I’d assume we get a resolution involving the characters that are still alive. But I really don’t know what else to think?

Also, what of the fictional Delocated? Remember, this is a mockumentary and it’s a show about a show. Is there something involving the network to tie up the loose ends with the reality show? Does Janeane Garofalo return as the president of the network?

What are your predictions for the finale?

Alex: All well said. Al over but the shooting, now.

As a man who is so bad at impulses that he once lost two hundred dollars in Vegas literally because there was a wait at a restaurant, I’m going to make four bad guess predictions:

  1. Janeane Garofalo will try to tie it all up, and probably will be successful. One of their big plot points is that “the network” is able to make anything work. They ran Midnight Munchingtons.
  2. “Jon’s” son lives through it. They haven’t killed any kids yet. Seems a step too far.
  3. Sergei wins, for real. He’s absolutely a bad person, but the show seems to be a big fan of rewarding him in little ways.
  4. “Jon” will lose, in some way, but will act like he believes it’s a victory for himself. Even if he’s got a gun to his head at the end, he’s gonna go out with a “frrt.”
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