Comedy Bang! Bang! the TV show has a very distinct outline which has worked undeniably well: one celebrity guest, one character, one framing device that ties them all together and—especially this season— there’s usually a witty take on some other type of show. All of these elements are typically very strong, but with “Alison Brie Wears a Mesh Top and Mini-Skirt,” unfortunately the reliable Brie gets lost in the background, a rare misstep that (oddly enough) occurs in an episode about revitalizing the format of the show.
Of course it’s easy to understand how the guest could find it hard to stand out in this episode by looking at this week’s credits. There’s James Adomian, who is fantastic at character creation and improvisation, and is also well known for his ability to practically overtake episodes of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast. It’s not a problem per se, but it can be overwhelming at times. However, it all works perfectly in “Alison Brie,” especially since he’s playing a Gordon Ramsay type named Giles Duggard who hosts a show called “Talk Show Rescue.” Throughout the episode, he pops in to correct Scott’s hosting style, pointing out how the show isn’t like a restaurant and that the show’s main problem is Reggie Watts. Duggard is an especially great choice for Adomian, as it plays to his strengths as a comedian and also fits into CBB’s recent deconstructions of reality TV.
Alison Brie is a good guest. She explains that Scream 4 is actually called AHHH 4, says that she’s not caught up on Mad Men—not even on her character. And she shares a good anecdote about meeting Bruce Springsteen on an elevator. It’s not Brie herself that is the problem, as she’s really good at riffing, but it’s what happens to her in the rest of the episode that is a bit disappointing. Usually a guest will interact with characters in the other segments, or appear in the “recorded bits.” However, once Brie’s segment is done, she’s basically as much a part of the show as the Rammy (the ram head mounted behind Reggie).
Doubling down on TV show parodies this episode, we see a clip from the sports doc series “Sporty 4:40” about the baseball team the Earth Earthlings. The team, owned by Larry Miller’s Texas billionaire Jerry Pickens, is a team for the entire world. They have a stadium the size of Austin; they incite a riot after winning the championship that leaves the world in ruins. They move to the moon, where they play against the Neptune Martians, which leads to the enslavement of all humans. The segment gets more insane the bigger it grows. Hopefully the enslavement of all humans in the CBB world comes up later in the season.
In addition to Adomian’s character, we also are given Paul F. Tompkins as Werner Herzog. With two of CBB’s greatest character actors, it’s no surprise that Brie doesn’t get more time. The highlight of the episode is easily Herzog, who explains his sequel to Good Will Hunting called Good Will Hunting: Port of Call Los Angeles where “Good Will Hunting” moves to Los Angeles, runs into the actor Robin Williams and Matt Damon, he loses his grasp on reality, then uses his skills as a math genius and a janitor to murder everyone in Los Angeles. Oh and he buys a talking car. Tompkins has already appeared on this season twice, but having him pop up every episode would just be delightful.
Every segment of “Alison Brie” works very well, but it’s when the characters combine that the episode doesn’t hold together as well as it usually does. Throwing in the show’s finest guests leaves Brie behind—a real shame since more interaction—especially with Herzog—could have been phenomenal. But it’s a minor gripe in an episode where all its disparate parts are incredibly strong.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.