On ‘The Detour,’ Domestic Life’s Not a Drag — It’s an Endless Adventure


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Halfway through the second season of The Detour, which premiered on Tuesday on TBS, Robin (Natalie Zea) tries to soothe her jealous husband, Nate (Jason Jones), by insisting that he’s helped make her life “normal.” But Nate objects: “Quit it with this normal shit, ok? It doesn’t exist! And your quixotic pursuit of it is…it’s quixotic. I used the word too early in that sentence.”

The exchange is basically the thesis statement of The Detour, a family sitcom that puts risk-taking and rule-breaking above earnest, eloquent after-dinner chats. Unapologetically raunchy and delightfully weird, The Detour — created by Jones and his wife, Full Frontal host Samantha Bee — broadcasts a fun-house version of domestic bliss.

Inspired by Jones and Bee’s real-life family vacations with their children, The Detour reflects the proudly eccentric sensibilities of its creators. The first season took place on a raucous road trip from the Parkers’ home in upstate New York to a vacation in Fort Lauderdale. In the second, they move to New York City after Nate gets a job selling “structured hydro nutrients” — a.k.a., water. The city provides a fitting backdrop for this family of weirdos, in particular fraternal twins Delilah (Ashley Gerasimovitch) and Jareb (Liam Carroll; the name isn’t a typo, but it is a long story. Watch the first season).

Throughout the first season, the show flashes forward to scenes of an interrogation between Nate and federal investigators, a conflict that appeared to be related to Nate’s job — which, unbeknownst to his family, is the real reason he dragged them down to Florida. The season finale introduced a twist: It’s Robin — who, years earlier, married a Chilean man who needed a green card and never bothered to get a divorce — the feds are after. The new season’s interrogation scenes are for the most part between her and a detective played by Broadway star Laura Benanti. The show coyly strings the viewer along with the promise of a big reveal: Why exactly are the Parkers being investigated in the first place? Halfway through the second season, it’s still unclear.

The Detour’s adventurous structure suits the Parkers well. This is not your typical sitcom family — for one thing, the parents aren’t technically married, and appear to be colluding in a scheme big enough to get the feds’ attention. The new season includes flashbacks to how Robin and Nate met, which of course is another wild story; fittingly, in an episode devoted to the night the twins were born, Robin goes into labor on Halloween.

Best of all are Gerasimovitch and Carroll, two of the most entertaining kids on TV. Where Delilah is headstrong and tenacious, Jareb is a softie, a sweet airhead who takes one look at the new neighbor girl and falls for her so hard, their whole life flashes before his eyes — from marriage to death.

Just as the family was stuck in a van for the majority of the first season, the move to New York squeezes the Parkers in similarly close quarters. The new setting is appropriate for this sometimes too-close-for-comfort family, and Jones and Bee — who live in New York — are clearly having fun with the details. “You guys should really sublet this kitchen,” a visitor tells Robin and Nate. “It’s so much nicer than the kitchen I’m living in.”

In one episode, Nate and Robin find their attempts at sex foiled by Delilah, who bangs on their locked door until she overhears her mother call her a “cockblocker” and starts cawking like a chicken in response. Later, she interrupts what would have been Jareb’s first kiss by bursting into the living room wearing a mask made of lunch meat. “Nice to meat you! Get it? Meat!”

The Detour is an unabashed ode to unconventional families, and an implicit middle finger to helicopter parents everywhere. The Parkers may encounter more hijinks in one 20-minute episode than most people do in a year, but those shenanigans only strengthen the family. On this show, family life isn’t an iron-barred cell from which grim-faced men are desperate to escape, nor is it a cheery mom in a sweater set bagging lunches. It’s an adventure you share with the people you love. It’s not a prison; it’s an amusement park.

The Detour airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on TBS.