The new TBS comedy initiative brought you Samantha Bee’s vibrant Full Frontal and the underappreciated gagfest Angie Tribeca. Now comes The Detour, a Vacation-y family comedy starring Jason Jones and Natalie Zea. They’re two frustrated parents on a road trip from Hell to deeper Hell. What should have been a short flight from Syracuse to Fort Lauderdale becomes a surprise trek down the Eastern Seaboard, with their 11-year-old twin kids in the back. The initial joke with the kids is obvious – she smart, he dumb – but Ashley Gerasimovich and Liam Carrol make appealing comedy partners for their grown-up costars.
Jones co-created the show with his wife and fellow Daily Show alum Bee, but The Detour is first and foremost a showcase for the loopy, barely hinged energy Zea brings to the material. I’ve been a fan of Zea ever since Dirty Sexy Money, the comedy-melodrama soap about rich insaniacs that ABC awkwardly released in a Recessionary moment when people briefly hated rich people. Zea was the best thing about the show, playing a wealthy young heiress at the precise moment she starts transforming into a world-weary Real Housewife.
Since then, by her own hilarious account, she’s been a leading member of the “Underwritten Wife Character on an Otherwise Brilliant TV Show” Club. Detour lets Zea play slow-burn straight man to Jones’ madcap dad, but they’re a well-matched crazy pair. Zea is simultaneously furious at her husband, but anxious to present a united front against their twins. She’s a devoted mom who isn’t above popping some edibles when the kids get too loud – and the sight of Zea dancing fully baked down a hotel hallway in episode 2 is already in the Best Scenes of 2016 list.
Not every joke in The Detour lands as well. The strip club jokes start midway through the pilot; urine gets thrown in somebody’s face not long after. But the second episode kicks off with a flat-out hilarious birds-and-the-bees family meeting. (Q: What substance looks like shampoo, tahini sauce, and a white map of Hawaii? A: I can’t possibly reveal that on this family-friendly website.)
The fun and challenge of The Detour is how it seems to be going for comedy in every direction, from delicate character comedy to sight gags to gross-out humor to full-fledged farce. Like, for real, The Detour might be a True Detective parody. That mixture is tricky to figure out. But it’s already been renewed for a second season. This road trip is off to an unsteady start, but I want to see where it goes.