“The Guest Book” on TBS
A mere week after HBO premieres “Room 104” and a good 22 years after Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on Four Rooms, TBS adds “The Guest Book” to its lineup. Like those previous divertissements, it’s a comic anthology centering on the various inhabitants of a single, crazy hotel room.
The show is the work of creator Greg Garcia, who gave us cult sitcoms “My Name Is Earl” and “Raising Hope.” The action is set in and around Froggy Cottage, a kitschy rental property in the rustic mountain town of Mount Trace, which seems prone to wacky happenstance. Each week, a different guest or set of guests show up, narrating their particular tale as they write it down in the cabin’s titular guest book. Those who watched Garcia’s previous outings will recognize a familiar, quirk-laden love for white trash culture. They’re also likely to spot some of Garcia’s favorite players, including Garret Dillahunt, Jamie Pressly, Shannon Woodward and Kate Micucci. Longtime fans may even surmise that “The Guest Book” takes place in the same extended universe as “My Name Is Earl” and “Raising Hope” based on the various characters and settings. (Can Patty the Daytime Hooker be lurking in these woods?) But “The Guest Book” adds a layer of curse-laden dialogue and sexually explicit storylines that would have been deemed way too adult for Garcia’s previous network shows.
The pilot episode, for example, stars Danny Pudi (“Community”) as Tim, a frustrated middle-school science teacher who shows up at Froggy Cottage looking to rekindle some sexual spark with his wife (Lauren Lapkus, “Orange Is the New Black”). Seems that she has become something of an angry harpy since giving birth to a “shrieking shit factory of a daughter” (her words, not mine). Tim ends up escaping from his wife, going to a local strip club and getting blackmailed by some larcenous employees. It’s not the most sympathetic of tales on which to launch this world, and the frenetic pace can be a bit tiring—but it has its moments of inspired humor.
Future, first-season guests passing through the revolving door include Stockard Channing, Jenna Fischer and Michael Rapaport. It’s a solid lineup, and the majority of the episodes flourish under Garcia’s curated brand of quirkiness. But the show grows more essential as the various background characters (Charlie Robinson from “Night Court” as the cabin’s manager, Garret Dillahunt as the divorced dad next door, Broadway’s Carly Jibson as a plus-size stripper) start to interact and contribute to their own, ongoing storylines. Garcia’s strength is in building wacky, interconnected universes. Give him two or three episodes and you’ll know whether you want to check in to this manic vacation rental for the season.