There are plenty of shows, from The Fosters to Jane the Virgin to Black-ish, that feature honest, warm, loving families. Believe it or not, The Detour is one of them. Created by real-life couple and Daily Show alumni Jason Jones and Samantha Bee, the TBS sitcom is one of the strongest new shows of the year, a hilariously edgy comedy with a voice all its own. And it features a hilarious and welcome new addition to the canon of great sitcom families.
The Detour is nearly halfway through a wickedly funny first season. What was supposed to be a flight from upstate New York to a family vacation in Florida turns into a road trip from hell: In the pilot, Nate Parker (Jones), his wife Robin (Natalie Zea), and their twins, Delilah (Ashley Gerasimovitch) and Jared (Liam Carroll) find themselves heading south in a decrepit van, and it’s revealed that Nate is hiding a secret from the rest of the clan. Like a comedic True Detective, the show flashes forward to interrogation scenes between Nate and a police officer, building a mystery over the course of the season.
It’s rare for a new sitcom to start off so strong: The Detour is funny from the first moment of its first episode and hasn’t lost momentum yet. It’s bawdy and bold, not too self-serious to include plenty of jokes about bodily fluids but sophisticated in the quality of its writing and the structure of its season-long arc. The writing is sharply irreverent: In the pilot, the family stops off at a roadside ice-cream shop called Banana Creamery that turns out to be a strip club, where Delilah gets her first period; in the most recent episode, when her daughter asks why they don’t say grace before they eat, Robin says, “If you want to thank someone why don’t you thank me? I make you dinner every night and I actually exist.”
The best part about the show is that it wrings comedy from all four family members — it uses every part of the animal, so to speak. No one’s the wet blanket here, or the whiner; everyone has their moments, but no one character is relegated to the role of the voice of reason, like Maxine on The Carmichael Show (once more, with feeling: give Amber Stevens West something better to do!). No, everyone here gets to deliver funny lines, and the actors are all game. Nate and Robin feel like equal partners, both as parents and as people who are human and sometimes screw up.
It’s not just the parents who get to be funny. Ashley Gerasimovitch and Liam Carroll are talented young comedic actors, and it’s great to watch them spar with Jones and Zea, and with each other. (Carroll in particular is destined for a career in comedy; with his big, dark eyes and ears that stick out just a little bit, he can kill with a well-timed look.) And the writing team — Jones, Bee, and fellow Canadian writer Mike Beaver — aren’t afraid to risk corrupting the children in the name of comedy. In last week’s episode, after some argument about visiting a racist theme restaurant called Conquistadors, the kids use the new vocabulary they’ve learned: Delilah exclaims, “I’m gonna pillage the salad bar!” To which her brother replies, “I’m gonna rape the sundae station!”
The Parkers are a tight-knit group, but they’ve got an edge, which makes them a refreshing addition to TV’s funny families. If this is what life is like in the Bee-Jones household, I’m ready to fill out adoption papers.
The Detour airs Mondays at 9 on TBS.