Comedy Bang! Bang! Season 2 Review: One of 2013’s Best Comedies

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Our culture is fascinated with failure. When someone has a breakdown, we want to read about it in the news; when we see a wreck, we stare instead of turn away. And oftentimes, we are never more fascinated with failure than when it follows a success. At no point in Comedy Bang! Bang!’s second season did I root for it to fail, or even think it would. But there was still some part of me that watched as it followed up brilliant episodes with brilliant episodes and wondered when the magic would stop. In a twenty episode season, having an episode or two that doesn’t work is perfectly reasonable and nothing to be ashamed of. And yet for all of its second season, Comedy Bang! Bang! produced a run of good-to-fantastic episodes that put most other comedies to shame.

There are many components to this season’s success, but artistic freedom tops the list. None of the season’s episodes seem like they went through network notes or were neutered. It feels like Scott Aukerman and his group of writers were given free reign. And since this airs on IFC, I’d imagine that’s the case. IFC knows it has a specific audience, so why not give them what they love? Next to freedom, there is also a prevailing sense of fun. Though this season occasionally dipped its toe into dark humor, like when its Halloween episode started with a murder, it always presented itself as a positive, light-hearted show, aiming to make people laugh, but also smile.

As odd as this sounds, I think the most under-praised aspect of the show is its host. Scott Aukerman is a funny guy, but this season proved he’s also a good actor. The “Scott Aukerman” of Comedy Bang! Bang! is ever-changing; he can be a friendly host, or a clueless interviewer, or whatever else an episode requires. Transitioning between those different personalities while making “Scott Aukerman” feel like a real person is an impressive feat, and one Aukerman deserves more recognition for accomplishing.

The best comparison I can think of for Comedy Bang! Bang! is Community. Both had mostly good first seasons that showed sparks of their later brilliance, but it was in their second seasons that they became something truly wonderful. Following season one, Comedy Bang! Bang! was given an increase from ten episodes to twenty, and they responded by booking a never-ending list of guest stars and planning out numerous high-concept episodes. One week it would be a musical episode with Tom Lennon and Casey Wilson, the next it would be a faux-missing episode that remade Comedy Bang! Bang! as a late night show with Colbie Smulders and Topher Grace. I never knew what I would be getting when watching one of this season’s episodes, and that element of surprise is something unique to very few shows.

What makes Comedy Bang! Bang! even more impressive is that it’s just starting. The jump in quality between seasons one and two was so dramatic that I can’t wait to see what the show does in season three, which was announced halfway through this season. Comedy Bang! Bang! has a format that lends itself to multiple seasons worth of ideas, as it gives way to interviews, sketches, character bits, and best of all, whatever else they can think of. Scott Aukerman and his writers have a show that gives them free reign to do anything without the limitations of logic and sitcom normalcy, and I don’t think they’ll disappoint us. Whatever comes next might not equal season two, but if it doesn’t, that means it’ll merely be great.

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