This isn’t to say that Garfunkel and Oates is bad. In fact, it’s quite good, and the strangeness of the show shines throughout the three episodes I viewed. The humor is both absurd and relatable, whether the stars are trying to “fade away” instead of breaking up with someone or are dealing with their porn doppelgangers achieving an overnight level of fame that Riki and Kate could only dream of. Episodes often drift into bits of fantasy, with the leads imagining their agent as a bumbling puppet or pausing during oral sex to sing a song about a poor gag reflex.
The strange part is that the uniqueness of these musical bits is what’s supposed to make Garfunkel and Oates stand out among TV’s comedies — and it does — but oddly enough, they don’t always feel necessary. The duo’s comedic talent and sitcom-like sensibilities are fully on display, and it’s clear the show would succeed even if it were just a straight sitcom. That’s why I’m so conflicted about it: I like the asides and songs and want them to continue, but I also think Garfunkel and Oates needs to find a better balance and figure out how to make the sitcom elements combine with the songs in a way that feels harmonious, rather than gimmicky.
Based on the the episodes screened, I have no doubt that Garfunkel and Oates has the potential to be a great series. The writing and directing is solid (Fred Savage, who has built up an impressive comedy-directing resume, was behind the camera for the entire season), the humor is in place, and the show is often populated with familiar faces (Natasha Leggero, Anthony Jeselnik, and Ben Kingsley are a few that show up). It’s a promising debut from two comedians who have already found their place in the comedy world but need to tweak their approach slightly if they want to conquer television, too.