True Story With Ed & Randall is based on an Australian series called True Story With Hamish & Andy, and the premise is the same: Ed Helms and Randall Park sit in smoking jackets and listen to real people tell their very interesting and eventful stories. As the storyteller tells his or her story, parts are reenacted by what can best be described as a roster of comedy all-stars.
Opening Shot: Ed Helms and Randall Park look up from a big book. “Stories,” says Helms. Park continues: “Since the dawn of time, we’ve relied on stories to entertain and enlighten.”
The Gist: In the first episode, the storyteller is Rick Steigerwald, a Pittsburgh native who lives and breathes the Steelers. He talks about how he and his buddies used to have amazing tailgates during games on something called “The Log” and in the parking lot of Three Rivers Stadium. During the team’s Super Bowl-winning season in 1978, Rick (played by Adam Pally in the reenactments) and his buddies managed to sneak into every home game, including the playoffs.
So when the team made the Super Bowl, Rick and his buddies stuffed into a Winnebago and made their way to Miami, the site of the game. Somehow, Rick managed to get into the Orange Bowl without a ticket, despite not knowing the lay of the land. Then he and his buddies managed to find seats on the 50-yard-line that were shockingly unoccupied for the whole game.
But Rick’s amazing day wasn’t done. He managed to get on the field at the end of the game, then he snuck his way into the Steelers’ victorious locker room and shook Terry Bradshaw’s hand (Terry plays himself, albeit 43 years older). Then he hit the showers with the team, almost gets in a fight with the equipment manager (Paul Scheer) and manages to get on the team bus. The entire time, two announcers (Rob Riggle, Erik Griffin) telestrate and comment on Rick’s incredible day.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Besides the show it’s based on, True Story With Ed & Randall has more than a passing similarity to Drunk History, but everyone’s sober and the stories don’t need alcoholic enhancement.
Our Take: A show like True Story With Ed & Randall has three basic elements: The storyteller, the reenactments, and the hosts reacting to the story. When all three work, it makes for an entertaining 30 minutes, but even if only two of the three work during an episode, things still move pretty well. But in the two episodes that Peacock sent to critics, all three aspects of the show worked well, but each episode worked well in different ways.
The episode with Rick was just pure laughs, which was helped along by Pally’s signature physicality in the reenactments. But Helms and Park were a great audience, amazed at every turn of Rick’s story and helping it along with good questions and funny commentary.
The second episode, featuring a lawyer named Yasmin El Hoddi, is funny but more inspirational. She talks about how her father took their family through five years of moving to escape the Lybian authorities, eventually settling in Alabama. Of course, being Muslim in the Deep South was tough, and she describes standing up to a bully in middle school, then running for class president in high school, not long after 9/11. The whole time, she’s encouraged by her father (Maz Jobrani).
In that episode, the real-life Yasmin is pretty damn entertaining all on her own, and Ed and Randall just are there to be her encouraging audience. Mansour is also good as teen Yasmin, making for an episode that’s just as effective despite the different tone. Other episodes have multiple stories, and we’re pretty confident that most, if not all, of them will be almost as fun to watch as the first two stories we saw.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: As the commentators on Rick’s adventure conclude their “coverage,” we see pictures of Rick flash on the screen behind them. Then we see newspaper clippings about Rick’s great day and pictures of him and his buddies from back in the day. Oh, and a pic of Terry Bradshaw sitting in the front of the team bus, just as Rick described.
Sleeper Star: We want to go to the second episode and give Maz Jobrani credit for playing it mostly straight as Yasmin’s dad. By taking on that straight man role, it made Mansour’s performance even more of a standout.
Most Pilot-y Line: None we could find.
Our Call: STREAM IT. People have incredible stories, and True Story With Ed & Randall makes them even more entertaining via enthusiastic hosts and funny reenactments. Oh, and the storytellers themselves are pretty fun to watch.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.