Bob Odenkirk, David Cross revive their brand of silly on Netflix’s ‘W/Bob and David’

David Cross, left, and Bob Odenkirkat the screening of their show "W/Bob and David" at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles on Nov. 05, 2015.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Long before making their respective marks in “Breaking Bad,” “Arrested Development” and “Kung Fu Panda,” Bob Odenkirk and David Cross were comic partners-in-arms in “Mr. Show,” a little-seen cult sketch-comedy show that zeroed in on the surreal and silly.

A quirky, often ribald, mix of taped skits and live performances, the series, which aired on HBO during the mid-1990s, showcased the duo leading other cast members in sketches that had a touch of Monty Python-style madness.

A man walking into a store to get change for a dollar is forced to wait until it goes all the way up the chain of command to a corporate head playing golf who launches into a weird dance. A hate-group leader plots to take over the world by terrorizing its citizens with a loudly blasted song by Billy Ocean. The rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” is transformed into “Jeepers Creepers Semi-Star.”


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Despite a devoted following that included Chris Rock and Conan O’Brien, “Mr. Show” never attracted a large audience, prompting HBO to pull the plug in 1998 after four seasons. But since its demise, fans have continued to ask Odenkirk and Cross about a “Mr. Show” resurrection.

Beginning Friday on Netflix, Odenkirk and Cross are finally going back for their future, rebooting “Mr. Show” with a new title, “W/Bob and David.” The four-episode run has the same outrageous DNA of crazy that defined the HBO series.

Days before the show’s premiere, both stars were optimistic about the reunion, saying the appetite for their offbeat perspective has only increased since their last broadcast together. Also, most of the same cast members and writers of the original have returned for the new series.

“We’re actually doing a show that people are going to get to see,” said Odenkirk last week at a premiere held at the Vista Theatre in Hollywood. “I had a guy come up to me after the fourth season ended and say, ‘I’m a great fan. When is there going to be more?’ I had to tell him, ‘Dude, it ended a month ago.’”

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos was a huge “Mr. Show” fan and was a key force in bringing the show back. In a statement, Sarandos said, “I am a comedy nerd and was a huge fan of Bob and David from the beginning of the alt comedy scene that they helped create. My history with them both goes back to my earliest days at Netflix, when I was the first and only Netflix executive in Los Angeles. …The coming together of Bob, David and Netflix feels like it has been in the making since my first days at Netflix 15 years ago.”

Odenkirk said Netflix will give the duo wider exposure: “The fact that viewers will be able to access the show fairly easily is a wonderful feeling. No matter how much you get paid for doing what you do, it’s nothing compared to the happiness that people are really going to be able to see the show.”

Of course, the key hook that will draw attention to “W/Bob and David” are the stars, who were relative unknowns when “Mr. Show” first surfaced. In the first episode, the duo took the stage in front of a live audience as Odenkirk introduced the series as HBO’s answer to what America had asked for: “A sketch show hosted by two people you’ve never seen before.”

That is no longer the case.

Odenkirk achieved major stardom thanks to his scene-stealing turn as the shady attorney Saul Goodman, the reluctant accomplice of drug lord Walter White in “Breaking Bad.” Goodman is now the central character in the “Breaking Bad” spinoff, “Better Call Saul,” which launches its second season early next year.

Cross has also planted his own flag on the comedy landscape — he was a key cast member of the quirky comedy “Arrested Development” and a reliable comedy presence in several series and movies, including “Kung Fu Panda,” “Modern Family” and “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.”

Said Cross, “It was inevitable that we would get back together and do this. Sometimes people will come up to me and say, ‘Do you and Bob ever talk?’ We’ve always been friends, outside of being writing and producing partners. We really enjoy talking to each other.”

Even though much has changed in their lives and careers since the end of “Mr. Show,” Odenkirk said fans of the original will see that the duo’s point of view has not really altered. “At the core is our sensibility, which is silly and absurd and funny. We don’t really feel like our voice has changed when it comes to sketch comedy.”

The main difference in the two shows is the title. “We want to say new things, and so we needed a new title. I was worried about my son’s generation going, ‘Oh, “Mr. Show” was their show.’ This gives it a whole new identity.”

How fans of Odenkirk’s and Cross’ other work will respond remains an open question. Armed with wigs and weird props, the humor is less joke-oriented and more twisted than other sketch shows such as “Saturday Night Live.”

But Cross anticipates a positive reaction and is already crossing his fingers for another round of episodes.

“My lone regret is that we only got to do four,” he said. “We were just getting into our groove when we had to stop. I’m going to push for eight next time.”