'The Jack and Triumph Show': TV Review

Courtesy of Adult Swim
Though the show has funny moments, it isn't a seamless effort

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog stars in Adult Swim's latest unconventional comedy

For 18 years, he has been a staple of late-night television. He’s recognized almost everywhere he goes, and tonight marks the debut of his very own half-hour sitcom.

Many comedians would kill for Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s career.

While parts of it may look like a standard multi-camera comedy, The Jack and Triumph Show experiments with the format, which makes it a good fit for Adult Swim’s unconventional lineup.

Created and executive produced by Triumph’s creator and puppet master, Robert Smigel, the series also stars 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer as a former child actor trying to erase his past mistakes, many which came about because of Triumph.

Just when it seems Jack has finally gotten his life together – with help from his roommate and former TV mom, played by Oscar-nominated actress June Squibb (Nebraska) – Triumph reenters the picture. He wastes no time tossing filthy insults and getting intimate with a variety of household objects.

Several scenes in The Jack and Triumph Show resemble a low-budget ‘80s sitcom, from its simple living room set to overly enthusiastic laughter from the studio audience. But the show’s most memorable moments occur when Triumph veers from the script and ventures into the real world, much like he first did on Late Night with Conan O’Brien almost two decades ago.

In a particularly unpredictable segment, Jack and Triumph head to New York Comic Con to meet fans and a handful of famous folks. Triumph wastes no time in approaching the talent.

“You’ve clearly been aging at warp speed,” Triumph tells Star Trek: The Next Generation star Brent Spiner. Across the convention hall, Triumph spots the former Captain Kirk.

“Shatner is wearing my wife on his head!” he exclaims, to the amusement of passersby.

The show continues to blur the line between scripted and unscripted fare by incorporating several personalities playing themselves: fitness guru Tony Little, former ‘N Sync member Joey Fatone and Police Academy actor Michael Winslow among them. While some lines seem rehearsed, much of what Triumph says appears to take the guest stars by surprise. (Occasionally, Smigel can be heard laughing as he speaks.)

Smigel, a former Saturday Night Live writer who also created SNL’s popular TV Funhouse segments, is a seasoned satirist who, if nothing else, deserves credit for continuing to take TV into edgier and stranger territory. That said, The Jack and Triumph Show isn’t a seamless effort, and Triumph is best enjoyed in small doses.

Not surprisingly, The Jack and Triumph Show should appeal most to existing fans of the naughty dog. Those who have never understood or appreciated the cigar-chomping canine’s jibes probably won’t change their minds after seeing the sitcom version of Triumph – though it’s hard not to at least crack a smile when the puppet is shown pumping gas and doing pilates.

Near the end of the pilot, Jack and Triumph breaks the fourth wall, exposing the studio audience and making it clear that, yes, we’re all just watching a silly TV show. It’s safe to assume this is the closest thing to a lesson we’ll ever get from the series, and who knows? Perhaps that's all we need.

Twitter: @whitneymatheson

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