If, like me, you grew up a weird kid compulsively watching the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and, yes and alas, the Three Stooges, then you might well enjoy “Backwash,” an enjoyably dippy web series with its final episode to be uploaded on Crackle this Monday night, December 20. The series stars Joshua Malina, who also wrote it, as the grumpy and conniving Val, who is, for whatever reason, charged with the care of the childlike and lovably idiotic Jonesy (Michael Panes). When they accidentally rob a bank with a sausage — you kind of have to be there — and hook up with a flamboyant ice cream truck driver, Fleming (Michael Ian Black, who I was unable to nab for a quick interview), the on-the-lamb trio begins a cross-country odyssey of sorts.
The enjoyably lowbrow but sometimes surreal silliness is book-ended by introductions from a rogues gallery of comic and acting talent, the funniest being a mysteriously bearded Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, John Cho, Dulé Hill, and Sarah Silverman. Somehow, Victorian author William Makepeace Thackeray is maligned as being the originally author of this more or less contemporary travesty lovingly directed by Danny Leiner, who also helmed “Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle.”
It was my privilege to chat with with some of the actors and creators of “Backwash” at the theatrical premiere of a somewhat shortened feature-length version of the web series. I started with Josh Malina, an actor I’ve been rather fond of since I stumbled over “Sports Night,” the show that convinced me that the writer of “The Social Network” was something more than an entertainingly glib semi-hack, actually a lot more.
An excerpt from the oddball, and still sadly unseen by me, pre-Hays Code 1933 science fiction comedy, “International House” which has one of the most interesting movie casts ever, including comedy legends like W.C. Fields, George Burns and Gracie Allen, singer and underrated comic actor Rudy Vallee (“The Palm Beach Story,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”), Bela Lugosi, who I’m sure was really funny, and the great musician and performer Cab Calloway. The oddly prophetic plot involves a bunch of folks descending on a Chinese hotel to bid on a strange new invention called “television.”
Seeing as we have an initiative on the ballot, Proposition 19, that might legalize marijuana here in California, this particular movie moment seems appropriate for a Saturday evening. We don’t advocate illegal activities here at PH, but if you happen to be in Amsterdam or past the three mile limit in the manner of the late William F. Buckley, don’t let us stop from doing what you were probably going to be doing anyway.
Thanks to my buddy, Wes, for putting this on his Facebook page where I could steal it. I’m sure he also doesn’t advocate or condone illegal activities. On the other hand, he serves martinis on the rocks, which is a crime against urbanity, I tells ya!
There’s little question that one of the most lively panels during the early days of the TCA tour was the one dedicated to Joan Rivers’ new TV Land series, “How’d You Get So Rich?” Or, if you read my coverage of the panel, you may be more familiar with it as “How’d You Get So Fucking Rich?” But, y’know, that’s Joan for you. You can learn just about anything you need to know about the concept of the series by checking out the link to my panel coverage that I just offered up (though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s a new episode of the series airing tonight at 10 PM EST / PST), but after she held court before the crowd of critics, a few of us actually had a chance to speak to her one on one for a few minutes each.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that, were it a contest to see who got the best pull quotes out of Joan, Joel Keller of TV Squad – who preceded me in speaking with her – would have taken the victory (she hadn’t been aware that David Tutera was scheduled to have his own TCA panel, but when he brought it up, she let fly with her thoughts on him in her usual forthright manner), but I still managed to get a couple of good lines from Ms. Rivers about “Z Rock,” “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and “Rabbit Test,” and the closing moments of our conversation will live in my memory forever.
Bullz-Eye: It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Joan Rivers: And it’s a pleasure to…well, we’ll see.
BE: (Laughs) I’ve got only got a couple of minutes, but I’ll do my best.