Tim and Eric’s anniversary particular is not a particular—it’s a continuation

Photograph: Grownup Swim
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Each time a comedy present or movie sequence begins up once more after a prolonged break, the present development is to acknowledge the hiatus. Take Wet Hot American Summer’s two subsequent Netflix seasons, where so much of the humor comes from how much the cast has aged, even as they continue to play characters they were much too old to play in the first place.

The self-referentiality is understandable. After all, the endless deluge of resurrections is kind of jaw-dropping, isn’t it? Who would have thought that everything from Arrested Development to Wet Hot, Full House, Veronica Mars, The Gilmore Girls, and even more serious-minded, artful fare like Twin Peaks would get second lives all these years later? Sometimes, it’s best to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation and move on, or, in Wet Hot’s case, keep mining it for more comedic gold.

But it can also be just as refreshing to come back a decade later as if nothing happened. That’s the road Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim take with their 10-year anniversary special for Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (or, as they dub it, 10 Year Anniversary Version, Great Job?), so much that it shouldn’t even be called a special (or a “version”) at all. Unlike the rejiggered format, new alter egos, and added holiday weight of their Chrimbus Special, 10 Year plays like just another excellent episode of Awesome Show.

It has the same trippy opening sequence, the same freak-show warping of late-night infomercials, and—most important of all—the same cast of characters pulled up from the strangest bowels of public-access television. In perhaps the only true nod to its own anniversary status, 10 Year features more regulars than the typical episode—a sort of faster-than-usual Greatest Hits of Awesome Show.

David Liebe Hart is back with yet another dead-eyed cat puppet to teach children about the importance of growing their own food. And in true Liebe Hart fashion, the song quickly mutates from innocence to depravity, with him essentially telling kids to fuck the very dirt beneath their shoes. John C. Reilly also returns for an all-too-brief interlude as Dr. Steve Brule, Pierre actor Ron Austar gets a rare gross-out bit involving hairballs, Casey Tatum and His Brother sing a new song about merry-go-rounds, and Spagett springs up from behind a gravestone for his unfunniest prank of all. And to squeeze in even more Awesome Show regulars, Heidecker and Wareheim call up what appears to be everyone in the rest of their cast, soliciting them to attend each of their competing martial arts demonstrations over the weekend (Tim practices “tae kwon doo”; Eric, “tai cheesh”).

While the martial arts storyline serves as a framing device to connect all the nightmare visions, there could actually be a bigger theme at play—one that reinforces Awesome Show’s place in pop-culture history (now over 10 years strong) without ever explicitly saying so. That would be the concept of fathers passing on their legacies—no matter how bizarre—to their sons. Dads have always been somewhat of a recurring theme on Awesome Show (just ask Pierre), but here, Heidecker and Wareheim specifically hone in on the passage of time; on men dying and their life’s work being taken over by their offspring, for better or for worse.

If that sounds like a stretch, just look at the number of dead dads that crop up on 10 Year. When peddling a top hat that gets inflated by one’s own flatulence (don’t ever use it for diarrhea!), Bradley Michael Fartz sadly recalls his father criticizing his past failed CincoBrown products, such as the Poop Tube. Likewise, in a new commercial for child clown rentals, Wareheim’s Steve Mahanahan reveals that his father, Donald (played by Will Ferrell in past episodes), got shot in the face while trying to break him out of jail. Now, the family business is all his, and because he’s moved it to a cruise ship, renters can do whatever they’d like with their rented clowns behind closed doors. And of course, no dad-centric episode would be complete without Will Forte’s Will Grello, back to angrily inform us that he’s now channeled his father’s abuse into a successful self-massage business.

But the most resonant—and actually kind of sweet—patriarchal moment comes in the episode’s final moments. When Wareheim messes up the phrase “son of a gun,” he utters the words “son of a Dunn,” which conjures the son of Awesome Show veteran Richard Dunn, who died in real life in 2010. Right before the credits roll, the younger Dunn grabs their hands and whisks away Wareheim and Heidecker to “Dunnderland.”

Like just about everything else in 10 Year, the sequel-ready ending plays to this all being a regular episode, one that will hopefully continue in a second installment (and perhaps many more) that takes place in Dunnderland. Even in the opening scene, Heidecker describes the following half-hour as being a “new season of an old show.” So maybe Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! isn’t just back for one night—maybe it’s back for good. I certainly wouldn’t mind. My dad wouldn’t either.


Stray observations

  • I didn’t get to talk about it above, but one of 10 Year’s highlights is the terrifying karaoke video for “Spaghetti Again.” The threat of old-people violence lurks around every corner, before transitioning into awkward and gleeful dancing—perhaps even more horrific.
  • Speaking of which, the stars in “Spaghetti Again” dancing together remind me of the two elderly people in the beginning and end of this infamous training video.
  • Has anyone else gotten wind of Awesome Show coming back for not just a new episode, but a whole new season? 10 Year makes me believe that’s the case, but I haven’t seen anything official about it online or in the press materials.
  • “Put your worm down in the dirt / Pump your body/ Make it go squirt.”
  • “Rent the clown! Do what you like! No one’s looking!”
  • “You could just make your own spaghetti out of straaang. Or your mama’s hair.”
  • “Spagett sucks.”

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