‘The Guest Book’ Season 2 Changes Its Location but Not Its Whacky Style
“The Guest Book” aims for nothing more than goofball laughs. It rises and falls on its own brand of comedy where absurdity either becomes too much, or reveals some surprisingly heartfelt moments (which don’t last very long). Now going into a second season, it’s the kind of show that’s truly an acquired taste. You get little out of it except many chortles, which isn’t necessarily the worst fate for a comedic series.
The season kicks off with two episodes, each set in a new spot, Mabel Beach. Eddie (Eddie Steeples) opens the first episode by packing what little he has and leaving Mount Trace. Once he arrives at his new spot he gets a job as a delivery man and quickly makes friends with stoner and handyman named Bodhi (Jimmy Tatro). Following Eddie is Vivian (Carly Jibson), a bikini bar owner with big ambitions. We also meet a new inn called Bare Feet Retreat, where guests record their experiences. The place is run by an engaged couple named Nikki (Kimiko Glenn) and Tommy (Dan Beirne). Nikki is quite pregnant (although she has reservations about who might be the father). Strolling into the Bare Feet Retreat are characters like a vacationing couple (Nat Faxon and Kether Donohue) with a husband obsessed with a VR headset and a pair (Will Arnett and Martha Plimpton) who plan elaborate ways to push addicts into rehab. Of course nothing goes as planned for these characters and their slipups turn into hilarious personal revelations and hassles.
“The Guest Book” is one of those shows that functions more as a series of episode-long skits. There’s a basic setting and a few recurring characters, but every episode has its own flavor and storyline. Showrunner Gregory Thomas Garcia again aims for satire mixed with lighthearted raunch. The first episode of the season introduces all the new characters but has a gut-busting take on marriage at its center. The couple played by Nat Faxon and Kether Donohue begin as your typical, almost uninteresting couple trapped in a sitcom. Faxon walks around with his virtual reality goggles pretending to be riding through Europe or skydiving, but when Donohue catches him masturbating to VR porn it gets darkly interesting. Faxon suggests they do VR porn together to grow closer. The payoff is morbid but undeniably funny. The second episode involving Will Arnett and Martha Plimpton is more slapstick as they play a couple who are approached by someone needing help with an addict. Their job is to stage a tragedy that will snap the addict into wanting to get into rehab (faking car accidents with a baby in the backseat is their favorite technique). The brother of a major drug abuser hires them but as Plimpton meets with the addict it becomes apparent she’s the one with a serious drug problem. When she’s supposed to be pretending to be snorting coke she’s doing it for real. This story has some humor that isn’t fresh, but it still has a few moments of cheerful gags (watch out for the drunk and dancing poodle). This season will reportedly feature many more notable cameos including Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Lisa Rinna, Martha Plimpton, Nat Faxon, Michael Rapaport, Steve Zissis, Allison Tolman, Oliver Hudson, Sufe Bradshaw and Nadine Velazquez.
The new regulars are interesting and entertaining in that quirky way “The Guest Book” has always stuck to. Nikki and Tommy are one of those couples where you wonder how it even happened. He runs the Bare Feet always on his nerves while Nikki essentially bows to his ridiculous ticks (when she goes into labor he demands they wait until midnight when they can get free service at the hospital). One of the season premiere’s best moments comes when they finally go to the hospital and Nikki casually asks the nurse just how close to the father does a newborn typically look. The regulars are mere decoration for the premiere. Eddie is an eyewitness to all the craziness while Vivian has a bit more to her character, especially when it comes to her huge crush on Bodhi.
“The Guest Book” doesn’t aim very high. It makes “Portlandia” look like a Nobel Prize contender. It’s all about goofballs in one location, with the guest stars seeming like they’re taking a break from their more expansive, demanding shows. But you still get some good laughs from some decent talent, even if not every joke is a keeper.
“The Guest Book” season two premieres Oct. 23 and airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on TBS.