The race…was boring.
Ever since last year’s amazing tennis title 7 Days in Hell -- Andy Samberg and Murray Miller’s HBO special starring Samberg and Kit Harrington – the HBO comedy special landscape has been less than original. While standup showcases are fine enough, there’s room for expansion as to what the premium cabler can air. Netflix, for instance, released The Characters where it gave a handful of comedic talent a chance to make one half hour filled with fleshed out characters. It was a good move, too, as comedy fans stood by their young favorites to watch these specials. Comedy Central also joined in the one off special treatment with Time Traveling Bong from Paul W. Downs and Ilana Glazer. That’s what Samberg and Miller’s bring to the table – the same kind of specialness. The two return to form in this year’s instalment of the Legends of Sports series with Tour de Pharmacy.
Starring Samberg, Daveed Diggs, John Cena, Orlando Bloom and Freddie Highmore, the special follows the five as the last remaining contestants in a bike race across Europe. Joining them are their elder counterparts Jeff Goldblum, Julia Ormond, Danny Glover, Dolph Lundgren, and James Marsden as a BBC reporter. Of course what would this event show be without gratuitous guest stars? There are more scoured across the 41 minute runtime who make use of their limited lines. What’s more is every person is funny enough to hold the joke, Mike Tyson especially. Other standouts include Nathan Fielder as a dry head of the World Anti-Doping Agency and Jon Hamm as the narrator.
Miller wrote the fast paced script with applicable twist and turns. Starting the race with hundreds of bikers only to be whittled down to five is a smart move. But it’s the stupid, dumb, idiotic choices the characters make that make the special oh so much better. Highmore, for instance, plays the younger version of Ormond as she concealed herself as a man so she can participate in the race. Another section of the special has the racers slowing down to a mere crawl because no one wants to be the first person in their proposed drafting line. It’s all gloriously outlandish.
Jake Syzmanski (also returning from 7 Days in Hell) compliments Miller’s script with solid tracking. The action stays on screen, the jokes are well covered, and the back and forth between present day and BBC’s past coverage are good. But it’s the presentation that should be recognized. Since the race took place in 1982, footage is shown in a videotape/CRT television format. The familiar tracking lines can be seen scrolling at points. Voices from microphones are tinny. Tour de Pharmacy’s past scenes feel as if they were pulled directly from someone’s VHS collection. Mixing it in with modern day interviews puts the magic together. One other great bit includes Phylicia Rashad playing an animator whose PSA goes awry. There’s also a Punch Out! joke with accompanying gameplay that kills. Let's not forget the constantly building joke of Lance Armstrong's face getting lighted more and more instead of it being draped in darkness throughout the hour.
Should you watch Tour de Pharmacy?
There’s no reason not to! With an exceptional cast, great script and all around awesome production, HBO’s Legends of Sports series from Miller and Samberg will continue to be a comedy bastion in a world with standup specials.