john elliott looks at russell brand’s new talk show…
BrandX: Well, That Happened
The Apatow camp got it right, my friends; that particular brand of weirdness known as “Russell Brand” works best in a fashion similar to turmeric or cumin, as a spice used occasionally for a burst of flavor amidst a bunch of other options. In big chunks, he’s overpowering, even tiresome.
And that’s why BrandX, in the Thursdays-at-11p slot, just doesn’t work. The format is sort of unique, or at least, it tries to be. Brand, a studio audience, and his former congressional adviser sidekick Matt Stoller riff on current events and pretty much whatever the hell Brand wants to talk about. What I think he’s going for here is something like a Tonight Show monologue with muscles and teeth–something that seems current and adventurous while also showing off some comedic chops and providing some decent water-cooler anecdotes for the following morning.
The problem is—Brand is most interesting when there’s contrast. It’s why he works so well in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek; his bombast and knives-out persona are brought into sharp focus when paired with quiet moments and a sense of normalcy. That doesn’t exist here — it’s Brand, on full volume, just letting his mind wander and spouting uncomfortable comments that might, with some better revision, be considered witty. He has a little bit on Alan Greenspan and the difference between British and American economies that mines jokes that were old a decade ago, and then bounces around some semi-current events; when he gets to the audience and starts asking questions, it gets really uncomfortable. There’s a three-minute sequence about a teenage guy’s circumcision that just devolved into an odd cloud of boring inappropriateness.
So, I can safely say, of FX’s new Thursday-night salvo of “edgy” comedy, that Brand X misses its mark entirely. Give Brand a foil, a different sort of co-host to slam him up against, and maybe, just maybe, this can be salvageable. But in its current state, it’s just a confusing, hodge-podgy mess.