Four comedians, including a current Saturday Night Live star, a former SNL writer, an alum of The Boys and Insecure, and a voice actor/writer for Big Mouth, have collaborated on a new series that finds the quartet getting into a whole mess of trouble while working at a Midwestern casino. No matter how bad it gets, however, they’re always keeping it silly.
BUST DOWN: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: We pan through the main floor of a casino, watching gamblers throw dice, play slots, until we find Sam Jay, watching the action from behind swinging doors, muttering: “Look at these motherf—ers.”
The Gist: We’re then introduced to our main characters in the casino’s break room. Sam bemoans her lot in life as “a cafeteria lady,” wishing for a floor job instead. Her friends immediately have her back. Langston (Langston Kerman) and Jak (Jak Knight) are janitors at Diamondback Palace Casino in Gary, Ind., while Chris (Chris Redd) works the valet and also is Jak’s big cousin.
In the pilot episode, their boss Horace (Dan Bakkedahl) provides the central conflict, first by saying plenty of offensive stuff about other employees, then by asking Jak to follow him down a hallway where he proceeds to grope him (while saying even more probably offensive things that get drowned out by the musical score).
What to do? Langston wants them to go as a group to their superiors. Sam says don’t tell anyone — she’s sexually harassed all the time, and besides, what woman wants to deal with the baggage of a man’s victimhood? Chris reveals that his mom’s friend performed a sexual act on him back in 1997, but that didn’t count as molestation because he liked it? The revelations force them all to make a series of choices. Chris starts telling everyone his story in an attempt to rationalize his memory of it. They do go as a group to HR, only to be reprimanded for it. Jak keeps hearing the phrase “hurt people hurt people” in his head, and eventually takes drastic actions. Perhaps not as drastic as the motivational video Chris made and then screened for all of his coworkers, though. But these measures do end up making a difference, though, and Horace flees the scene, leaving Chauncey in charge.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of?: Malaise in a workplace milieu may remind you of Party Down, but Bust Down also taps into the mindset of such sitcom classics as Seinfeld or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Four friends. Uncomfortable situations. More uncomfortable jokes. Silly endings.
Our Take: Comedy fans should appreciate how the premiere episode shouts out Bruce Bruce, Brandon T. Jackson, and the dubious fate of another sitcom, Martin. It’s also willing to go there to make a subtle case for Odell Beckham, and make a more mainstream reference to a key scene from Game of Thrones.
The subject matter of the first episode almost seems designed to scare off casual viewers, instead wishing to cultivate a cult following of fans who are in on the jokes and ready to strap in for the ride with these four comedians. The comedians, who co-created and EP the six-episode series from Broadway Video, even say themselves that they’re just looking to make the same kind of show for Black audiences that they’ve been used to seeing gain great success with all-White casts.
“Bust Down is rooted in our friendship. Every character is a hyperbolic version of how we see each other, and every story is inspired by the bad choices we each naturally make out in the world. There aren’t a lot of straight comedies right now where people truly go for jokes that are raunchy, irreverent, and complicated, and at its core that’s what ‘Bust Down’ is all about. We believe true equality is being able to make a show about nonsense the same way white people have been doing forever. We just wanted to make something so fucking hilarious that it makes people laugh so much that they miss jokes and then have to circle back to watch again.”
These four comedians have enough chemistry and comedy that it’s worth seeing wherever they want to go next.
Sex and Skin: None, although there’s plenty of sexual talk and activity.
Parting Shot: Jak suggests Chris copy what he did for his tormentor, only for Chris to one-up that idea, leaving Langston to shrug and sigh: “OK.”
Sleeper Star: Freddie Gibbs, a rapper/actor who’s actually from Gary, brings a wild-eyed swagger to Chauncey, the casino’s Human Resources director.
Most Pilot-y Line: “What is your show gonna be?” they ask each other in the break room.
Our Call: STREAM IT. As rough as the first episode may be for some viewers, just imagine if NBC hadn’t given Seinfeld a second chance after that sitcom’s initial struggles in both plot and ratings. Let’s see how Bust Down unfolds.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.