From Will Ferrell's comedy shorts website FunnyorDie.com comes the HBO series "Funny or Die Presents." A simple litmus test: If you like the Interwebs version, you'll like the cathode one, too.
"FoD" is hosted by Ed Haligan (Steve Tom, channeling Leslie Nielsen), the FOD network's white-haired West Coast head of sales who intros and outros each episode. I love the look of these sequences, with their empty backgrounds, retro technology and "Mad Men"-ready hotties. The space-age construction-paper graphics of the theme are cool, too.
With one exception episode 9's groovy, full-length "The Carpet Brothers" each of the 12 half-hours features multiple sketches, many of which are recurring and sport famous names and faces. Others highlight up-and-coming absurdist talent, such as Derek Waters, Sloven & Allen and David & Jennie.
Among the highlights:
Rob Riggle engages in a night of rampage, much to the dismay of Paul Scheer, his "Designated Driver."
"Space Baby," a parody of "Flash Gordon"-esque serials of yore, but starring a babbling infant and the great Fred Willard.
"Casual Sex," which finds Andrea Savage's pregnant single gal attempting to have the wild phase she never had, before she gives birth. Her would-be suitors aren't so enthusiastic when they discover her delicate condition: "Did you hear that, penis? 'Mucus plug.'"
A bank robbery goes terribly, hilariously wrong in Rob Heubel's "Holdup," which co-stars Ed Helms, Malin Akerman, Thomas Lennon, Rachael Harris, Creed Bratton and, in a cameo, "Weird Al" Yankovic.
A commercial for the Prius Racing Set. As one kid exclaims, "I'm having fun and I feel good about myself!" (Aside: As a Prius owner, I take umbrage to the depiction of the cars moving a snail's pace, but I still laughed.)
But they can't all be highlights. On the opposite end of the spectrum, "Sleeping with Celebrities" is a one-joke bit that gets trotted out three more times too many. "One Thousand Cats" went on so long that I wanted to scratch my eyes out, and no matter how hard Zach Galifianakis tries to spice up Tim & Eric's "Just 3 Boyz" sitcom spoof, it's too stoned for its good.
Luckily, the good far outweighs the bad or, more appropriately, the funny far outweighs the die and the funny is often very funny. Can't wait for season two; doughnut mind if I do. Rod Lott