Jon Benjamin Has a Van
Jon Benjamin, first known to me as the voice of Ben Katz on Dr Katz and later Coach McGuirk on Home Movies has been getting busier lately. Popping up in more cameo’s including appearances on Family Guy and Parks and Recreation and is now starring in Bob’s Burgers and Archer. He hadn’t done a huge amount of live-action work until now but in this series he's proved himself to have a very funny screen presence to match his voice.
The show is a combination of quicker sketches/prank segments mixed with a longer short film narrative piece that makes up the bulk of the show. These have all been pretty good for the most part; the most interesting one featured a story in which the show’s sound man is kidnapped meaning the show plays out with no sound for several minutes. It was genuinely experimental and audience-alienating television so good on Comedy Central for allowing them to do it.
The general conceit of the show seems a little loose, the idea seems to be that Jon Benjamin is an investigative reporter, but it doesn’t quite stick to the idea, there are moments where it’s not quite clear if we’re supposed to believe in the reality that he’s always being filmed by his production crew, but of course there’s other times where he’s filmed talking to his production crew, so there isn’t quite a consistent logic, but it‘s not too much of a problem.
Ugly Americans follows the life of Mark Lilley, a social worker at the department of integration. The show takes places in a warped version of Manhattan inhabited by zombies, monsters, demons, mythological creatures and various anthropomorphic species.
Mark is a kind of stereotypical woolly-liberal, much of the humour derives from his naivety, hypocrisy or at his struggles to push a righteous agenda despite attempts by many to crush him. He has a relationship with Callie his superior at work, a half woman- half demon hybrid, their relationship seems to survive in spite of their conflicting moral viewpoints.
He also lives with Randall a zombie, who only became a zombie as part of a failed attempt to impress a woman. As a zombie he’s had to learn to curb his desire for human flesh, though if given the opportunity it seems he’d be very happy to eat Mark. He’s unemployed, and is generally a slacker that just does odd jobs to pay his rent to Mark.
The show has quite a few parallels with Futurama in how a lot of its humour emanates from the concept of different species living together in a city; it’s a metaphor in some ways for immigration. It’s generally got some darker and dirtier subject matter than futurama, with more callous main characters, but there’s still some warmth to them in spite of their at times incredible selfishness.