Decker

3 out of 5

Created by: Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington

covers seasons 1 through 6

Decker, as an extension of the On Cinema universe, is genius. The long-form joke / non-joke of the fictionalized versions of hosts Tim and Gregg and the way that fed into Tim’s creation of this show, and the continual plotting and bits that trade back and forth between the web show and the Decker series is a very generous, weird form of humor that’s been kindly allowed to develop, slowly and surely, in an extended fashion that I don’t feel has truly been done in any other format, at any other time.

Decker, as a standalone experience – how I initially tried to watch it, and how I’m mostly choosing to review it – is a tougher sell. Its core gag – of a very non-movie star dude (Tim) thinking that he’s totally a movie star and using non-existing acting skills and bottom-tier shooting / computer effects competence to create his own “action” series featuring super agent Decker – is over and done in a single episode. But the short runtime of the first season, and the way Tim sprinkles so much purposeful ignorance on top (Decker is very nationalistic and white) and allows for as much we-did-it-all-in-one-take b.s. and green screen into the mix makes that core joke extensible to five giggle-worthy episodes. When that gets blown out into a 20 episode second season, on its own, there’s simply not enough added to the mix to make it necessarily worth the runtime. From afar, it’s pretty funny – now Tim has music chops, for example, and gives us a patriotic song that runs at full length – but actually watching it, without the context of On Cinema to inform some of its decisions, can be a chore. The same can be said for its third season: Decker vs. Dracula. Though blissfully short (4 episodes) and admittedly a hilariously dumb changeup, it again is more informed by its connections to On Cinema, and the creative control feud between Tim and Gregg.

Season 4 finds the series redefining itself somewhat, though. There’s a bigger “budget” – still willfully poorly applied, of course, but now this is a show with a few more sets and effects to work with, giving episodes visually defining elements / sequences – and Tim’s On Cinema (and thus Decker) persona has become a more direct parody of conservatives and those in favor of real-life (then) President Trump’s policies. Season 5 and 6 solidify this, and because their airing wasn’t trading off with On Cinema episodes, the show finally starts to feel like it fully stands on its own, while still gaining plenty of jokes earned from the universe from which it sprang. The difference, though, is that even those jokes can be enjoyable without their full context; fictional Tim has become such a satire, and Decker such a pointed version of that, that our 13-minute adventures with the character (presented as flashbacks, since the narrative has now extended to the future, with “Decker Jr.”) are sincerely a hoot, given you’re in to ad nauseam repeated gags and purposeful bad acting with repeated and flubbed lines, but if you’ve trawled in more than a handful of Adult Swim shows or Heidecker related material, I assume there’s a tolerance (if not appreciation) for that.