Off the Map
“The Detour” on TBS
In the past few years, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” has surpassed NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” as the farm league for comedic movie and TV talent. Seems like everyone who ever served as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” is hitting the big time all of a sudden. TBS, having lured former “Daily Show” corespondent Samantha Bee with her own late-night chat show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” recently locked up another Comedy Central alumnus. Bee’s husband, Jason Jones (who worked on “The Daily Show” from 2005 to 2015), now finds himself heading up his own limited season sitcom.
“The Detour,” produced by Bee and Jones, takes place over the course of one family’s increasingly disastrous summer vacation. Dad Nate (Jones), mom Robin (Natalie Zea, who was great in the short-lived “Dirty Sexy Money”), rebellious daughter Delilah (Ashley Gerasimovich) and simpleton son Jared (Liam Carroll) have been packed into the family sedan and are being ferried on a 1,300-mile journey from New York to Florida where they will (theoretically) bask in the tropical sun for a week. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.
“The Detour” owes a debt, of course, to Chevy Chase’s family road trip classic National Lampoon’s Vacation. But it also borrows a lot of inspiration from modern-day rude ’n’ crude faves like Knocked Up and The Hangover. It pushes the bounds of what you can do on TV about as far as the late-night, basic cable airwaves will allow—drugs, bodily fluids and some middle-aged male nudity are par for the course. It took less than half of the first episode before the family found itself trapped in a truck stop strip club. Yet “The Detour” managed to one-up that joke by having young Delilah experience her first period in the location. Having a gaggle of glitttered-up strippers coach the 11-year-old through the experience put a traumatic cherry on top of the raunchy sundae.
“The Detour” is scheduled for 10 episodes, each taking up less than a day of the family’s road trip. TBS has already greenlit a second season, begging the question of how long this week-long trip can be stretched out. But so far, “The Detour” has found some hilariously uncomfortable directions to take—such as the inappropriate impromptu “birds and the bees” talk mom and dad try to deliver to their ill-informed offspring in episode two. “The Detour” gets its best mileage when it just lets its well-synched cast run away with a gag.
Although “The Detour” is mostly about the usual impediments of nasty hotel rooms, broken-down cars and wrong turns, it drops in the occasional flashbacks and flash forwards to up the ante on its increasingly dark storyline. We quickly find out, for example, that harried dad Nate was fired from his job just before this vacation. It’s a fact he’s concealing from his family, while secretly hoping to win it back at a business convention taking place at the beachside resort he just happened to choose as the family’s final destination. We also know from flash forwards that Nate is relating the story of his family’s disastrous excursion in a police interrogation room where he’s being questioned on some heavy federal felony charges. What the heck happened to land the family in such dire straits? We’ll just have to hang on through the season and find out.