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Television Review

Crude and crass, humor mostly fails test

Steve Markle (left) and Jeff Kassel in FX's new comedy ''Testees.'' Steve Markle (left) and Jeff Kassel in FX's new comedy ''Testees.'' (Ben Mark Holzberg/FX)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / October 9, 2008
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In this case, you can and should judge the book by its cover. If you don't think the title "Testees" is a funny pun, then you have no business watching this new FX sitcom, which is even more sophomoric than its Thursday night FX companion, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." Urine, breast milk, flatulence, suppository and penis jokes - they all make an appearance in tonight's premiere, at 10:30. Oh, and there's an adult-diapering montage, how could I forget?

The premise is that two lazy, down-and-out roommates, Peter (Steve Markle) and Ron (Jeff Kassel), support themselves by submitting to drug testing at a company called Testico. They are, essentially, human guinea pigs. The side effects are profound for the guy who doesn't get the placebo, which tonight means that Peter becomes pregnant. With his plump belly, he agonizes over whether or not to keep the baby; he and Ron practice child-rearing on their fat neighbor; other politically incorrect high jinks ensue.

Meanwhile, a fellow testee, Larry (played by show creator Kenny Hotz, creator of Comedy Central's "Kenny vs. Spenny"), is experimenting with Testico's penis-enlargement spray. Let's just say the spray isn't as much fun as he expected.

I think there's a hint of potential in this show, if Hotz can pull back from the knee-jerk body-fluid jokes long enough to build up his characters and find humor in other aspects of a career in taking experimental drugs. Peter and Ron are a pair of total slackers like the "Flight of the Conchords" guys, although playing music would be too much work for them. Predicament-prone and high-strung, Peter isn't much more dimensional than David Schwimmer's Ross on "Friends," while Ron's personality is harder to grasp. I guess he's the more normal one. By giving us more of their characters, and more of their offbeat buddy chemistry, the show could be something other than just a one-joke vehicle for scatology.

The crass gags - some of which I laughed at - ultimately overwhelm everything else. Better to dole out the tastelessness carefully, so that each crude zinger has some value. "The Sarah Silverman Program" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" traffic in the same kinds of material, but with much more cleverness, context, and timing. Right now, "Testees" is less like a full-fledged TV series and more like that viral YouTube goof your college buddy sent you. You watch it once, maybe giggle a little, and then delete it.

Testees

Starring: Steve Markle, Jeff Kassel, Kenny Hotz

On: FX

Time: Tonight, 10:30-11

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