With Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” USA’s “Playing House” and now “Garfunkel and Oates,” which premieres Thursday on IFC, it is springtime on television for female comedy teams.
If the dynamic is not exactly without precedent — Lucy and Ethel, Mary and Rhoda, Laverne and Shirley, Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins, and whoever those characters on “2 Broke Girls” are — it has not been dominant. At the moment, it feels like an exciting new kind of dessert that makes all the old desserts seem suddenly less interesting.
One difference in the new shows is that the friendship and the partnership precede the series (and you can feel it). In the bright, new “Garfunkel and Oates,” Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci make a sitcom out of their stage act, called Garfunkel and Oates because one is tall and blond and the other short and dark, and they sing. (They could have called themselves Simon and Hall, but that wouldn’t have been as funny.)
The first episode is the weakest of the three I’ve seen, with some good moments but too couched in the nominal premise of struggling performers trying to make it in show business. The sex humor feels similarly conventional.
Things quickly improve, however, as the women get stranger and more idiosyncratic. In the second episode, the pair are accosted at a show by porn-film doppelgangers (played by Abby Elliott and Sugar Lyn Beard) who hijack their act, with great success, as Garfunkel and Oates’ less glamorous corporate gig goes very wrong.
In the third, they decide not to speak to the men they’re dating, “just to see how long we can go before it gets really awkward.” (“It was so relaxing not to have to contribute in any way,” Riki concludes.)
Another exchange gives a nice sense of the characters, their relationship and their history:
Riki: “I’m trying to decide between cupcakes for dinner and no dinner.”
Kate: “Remember the time we bought a green pepper? We were so optimistic.”
There are excellent small details. Riki is addicted to a (never-seen) show called “Procedure” that stars Mark Hamill. Kate is obsessed with “Pumpernickel Place,” a public-TV children’s show. In the third episode, they are asked to pitch a song for the gay marriage of two of its characters, and it is not comedy at all, but beautiful and, indeed, quite moving. So they will not be sticking to a formula.
A legion of famous, quasi-famous and familiar faces lend support — Tig Notaro, Chris Parnell, Chris Hardwick, Nick Thune, Ashley Johnson, Natasha Leggero, Brent Weinbach, Steve Agee, Anthony Jeselnik and Ben Kingsley, among others, appear in just the first three episodes. As does John Oates himself, as a porn-store clerk — building a model ship. It was an interesting choice.
‘Garfunkel and Oates’
When: 10 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)