'Deadbeat' Review: Tyler Labine and Cat Deeley's New Hulu Comedy is on Life Support
'Deadbeat' Review: Tyler Labine and Cat Deeley's New Hulu Comedy is on Life Support
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
On Hulu's latest original scripted program Deadbeat, Tyler Labine plays Kevin "Pac" Pacalioglu, a medium who helps ghosts deal with unfinished business that keeps them roaming (mostly unseen) among the living. This is Labine's second supernatural series, having played the stereotypical comedic comic relief best friend/sidekick on Reaper. Think a much pudgier Stiles (Teen Wolf). Now Labine is the leading man on a 22 minute comedic take on the incredibly trendy genre saturating current programming.

Unlike the melodrama Ghost Whisperer, Deadbeat keeps its storylines pretty simple. After seven episodes, none of the characters are any more developed than in the pilot, although some of Pac's idiosyncrasies become more recognizable.

The primary cast is sparse. Aside from Labine, there's Pac's BFF Roofie (Brandon T. Jackson). In addition to being Pac's only friend, Roofie is also his drug dealer. Pac is a functional addict. He's into uppers, marijuana, acid and occasionally mushrooms when he does a possession. Pac doesn't inhale or inject anything hardcore, keeping in sync with the lighthearted tone of the show.

Pac eats crap and dresses even worse. Most of his outfits are unmatched, but on the plus side, look to be flame retardant. He's lazy and can't even produce $25 dollars on the fly. His hand to mouth existence can be attributed to his inability to capitalize on his gift. He tells Roofie that people aren't as easily spooked as they used to be, and his customers would often rather put up with a ghost than him. The thing is, Pac is genuine and likable, albeit eccentric. Anybody would call him over Ghostbusters any day.

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Pac's a horrible negotiator and often winds up bartering for his services; an interesting contrast to his love interest/nemesis, a woman named Camomile White (Cat Deeley), a paranormal communicator. Camomile has the knowledge of how to brand herself, an over-utilized skill in contemporary society. Camomile's name is a key indicator of the shallowness of her character. A British woman whose first name brings to mind tea and an utterly generic surname. It's like being Jane Doe only more pretentious. Unlike Pac, who by his own admission is the Godfather III of mediums, Camomile is A-List all the way. She's willowy and blonde and is reminiscent of Ann Coulter. She makes the talk show rounds and earns her living the John Edwards way.

Pac is smitten even after discovering Camomile is not all that she seems. She shows no redeeming qualities unless you consider paranoia, snippiness and being physically and verbally abusive turn ons. Her favorite victim, next to Pac, is her hapless assistant Sue, played by Lucy DeVito (Melissa & Joey). There's no heart of gold under her icy facade which makes Pac's infatuation even more unfathomable.

Each episode introduces a new specter. The dead on this series linger for reasons that range from a desire for carnal knowledge to marital strife. Pac's "clients" are sweating the small stuff, just like most average Joes. So, Pac isn't just a medium, he's also a private detective, a closer, a vessel and an amateur therapist. He gets those spirits moving into the "light" as quickly as possible minus any big life affirming realizations or revelations. There's far more substance in an episode of The Simpsons than in this show.

Deadbeat shows some glimpses of promise, mainly where the writing is concerned. Labine is good at the fast-talking witty banter. Based on his overall body of work, it seems to be his schtick. But there's a strange dichotomy at work. Pac is no dummy, and his episodic lapses into a run-of-the-mill stoner don't jibe when he's usually lucid and innovative when it comes to getting himself out of sticky situations. The fact that he mistakes the term loose cannon for loose canyon brings to mind Joey Tribbiani's moo point mix-up from Friends. Pac also takes the term cakewalk literally. It's possible this innate stupidity is supposed to remind viewers that he's often under the influence.

There are some notable guest stars. Samantha Bee (The Daily Show) and Darrell Hammond (Saturday Night Live) make appearances. Jason Biggs even two-times Netflix and Orange is the New Black with a cameo.

Given the monthly subscription rate and advertising revenue the streaming site generates, Hulu should be able to pay for more upscale special effects. The ghosts show up surrounded by a white haze and in the condition they were in at the time of their deaths. Wounds look like the work of make up purchased at the local costume store around Halloween. The show downplays even the grisliest boo-boos. A woman stabbed by her husband 47 times is in such good shape, Pac tells her her she doesn't look a stab over 20.

There are a handful of laugh out loud moments, but a show should start to evolve after seven episodes. Deadbeat feels rushed, like a term paper written at the last minute by a student hoping to maintain a C average. Yeah, there's a thesis, but the arguments to support it are either lacking or missing altogether.

You can catch the first episode below.

You can begin watching Hulu's new comedy Deadbeat for free Wednesday April 9. 

(Image and video courtesy of Hulu)