The comedy in ‘American Body Shop,’ Comedy Central’s newest take on its ‘Reno 911’ formula, is a lot like a hit-and-run accident: it does its damage instantaneously, leaving behind victims who futilely wonder who is responsible for the irreparable trauma. A hit-and-run accident, though, is normally a one-time event. ‘American Body Shop,’ with its relentless attempts at humor, is a never-ending series of hit-and-run accidents that tortures its victims in endlessly painful ways. ‘Body Shop,’ like a hit-and-run driver, lives perpetually in the moment, looking neither behind itself nor ahead of itself as it goes aimlessly to a very unfunny place.
In the pilot, an insurance agent pays a visit to Desert Body & Custom and informs the staff that the shop’s policy is in grave danger of being revoked. The setup is perfect for some wacky humor, but the show turns to pure tastelessness (there are two references to child labor issues in a fifteen-minute time span) in its unoriginal tries at physical comedy. Desert Body & Custom’s employees are just as unoriginal as ‘Body Shop’’s efforts at physical comedy. The vague mockumentary undertone could have allowed for ‘Office’-quirky character nuance. Instead, the on-paper promising concept (an auto shop is, after all, a pretty apt metaphor for American life) is lost in formulaic mindlessness. The situations in the pilot depend very little on the auto shop theme. They are situations, including getting locked in a bathroom, setting people on fire, and breaking stuff, that can occur in any environment.
The pilot is clever on one level, that is, if it’s taken as a cautionary tale in hit-and-run television watching. Its victims ought to have the same reaction to ‘Body Shop’ as the insurance agent has to Desert Body & Custom, minus the probationary stage. There’s no insurance worth buying here.
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