A rare new sitcom with as much heart and soul as jokes and wackiness, Detroiters is a welcome surprise premiering on Comedy Central Tuesday night. The show stars its creators, Sam Richardson (Veep) and Tim Robinson (Saturday Night Live), as Sam and Tim, two pals who run a very small Detroit advertising agency. As characters, Sam and Tim are close friends who share similar hopes, dreams, and delusions — foremost among the latter is the idea that they’re ad men as creative as Tim’s father, whom numerous characters cite as a legend in the business.
Sam and Tim, by contrast, are genial screwups. Challenged to come up with an advertising campaign for Chrysler by a marketing vice president (Jason Sudeikis, who’s also one of the show’s producers, along with Lorne Michaels), they spitball catchphrases such as “Be nice-ler, drive a Chrysler!”
Detroiters has some of the guys-goofing-around slapstick of a show like Workaholics, but it’s best when it’s exploring the duo’s friendship — in this, the show has more in common with another Comedy Central show, Broad City. But Detroiters has its own vibe, powered by a clear affection for the city in which it’s set. It’s easy to imagine watching an entire episode in which Sam and Tim just drive around Detroit, commenting on their favorite aspects of the city.
The show does a solid job of casting supporting players as well. I’m already fond of eccentric bartender Betty (“Two beers — hot or cold?”). And it’s always great to see Steve Higgins outside his Tonight Show announcer role, where his quick comic intelligence is rarely allowed to unfurl. Here, as the “hot-tub king of Detroit,” he’s amusingly oblivious. The cheap ad Sam and Tim devise for him proves such a disaster, a local news anchor (played by real-life Detroit anchor Mort Crim) says gravely, “I don’t normally comment on the commercials, but that was very bad.”
Detroiters airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.
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