Lately, IFC has been focusing more and more on producing fun and offbeat comedy. The Birthday Boys, Maron, and Comedy Bang Bang are three examples of shows that fit perfectly on the network and wouldn’t feel right anywhere else. Now we can add Garfunkel and Oates to that list, a charmingly idiosyncratic comedy that adds some much-needed women’s voices to the network’s slate.
Garfunkel and Oates will surely get comparisons to Broad City because it features two very funny women who are brazen about sex, and to Flight of the Conchords because the women are also comedy-musicians, so there are fantastical, creative musical numbers featured throughout each of the episodes. But Garfunkel and Oates is out to forge its own path, and the results, while not quite there yet, are still funny and definitely promising.
Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci play fictionalized versions of themselves, trying to navigate their lives and the comedy world in Los Angeles (where Nerdmelt is now Supermelt). Their characters could use some developing, as they’re both still two-dimensional at this point — it’s as if the show is unsure whether it wants to go full-silly/quirky or full-sexual and is unaware that the two qualities can coincide without canceling each other out. The musical interludes that have made the real Garfunkel and Oates duo famous (and are the main reason why this show exists) aren’t as strong as their previous videos, perhaps because the songs are great as standalone tunes but feel forced into the show’s storylines.
The plots in Garfunkel and Oates are often so great on their own that they don’t need the musical interruptions. “Speechless,” a funny song about men’s sports obsessions, is shoved almost haphazardly into what would otherwise be a wonderful episode about the absurdity of dating. (The central plot involves Riki and Kate seeing how long they can date two men without saying a single world; the results are hilarious.)
This isn’t to say that Garfunkel and Oates is bad. In fact, it’s quite good, and the strangeness of the show shines throughout the three episodes I viewed. The humor is both absurd and relatable, whether the stars are trying to “fade away” instead of breaking up with someone or are dealing with their porn doppelgangers achieving an overnight level of fame that Riki and Kate could only dream of. Episodes often drift into bits of fantasy, with the leads imagining their agent as a bumbling puppet or pausing during oral sex to sing a song about a poor gag reflex.
The strange part is that the uniqueness of these musical bits is what’s supposed to make Garfunkel and Oates stand out among TV’s comedies — and it does — but oddly enough, they don’t always feel necessary. The duo’s comedic talent and sitcom-like sensibilities are fully on display, and it’s clear the show would succeed even if it were just a straight sitcom. That’s why I’m so conflicted about it: I like the asides and songs and want them to continue, but I also think Garfunkel and Oates needs to find a better balance and figure out how to make the sitcom elements combine with the songs in a way that feels harmonious, rather than gimmicky.
Based on the the episodes screened, I have no doubt that Garfunkel and Oates has the potential to be a great series. The writing and directing is solid (Fred Savage, who has built up an impressive comedy-directing resume, was behind the camera for the entire season), the humor is in place, and the show is often populated with familiar faces (Natasha Leggero, Anthony Jeselnik, and Ben Kingsley are a few that show up). It’s a promising debut from two comedians who have already found their place in the comedy world but need to tweak their approach slightly if they want to conquer television, too.