Review: "Con Man" Makes a Triumphant Return on Comic-Con HQ

Thursday, 08 December 2016 - 9:00AM
Reviews
Thursday, 08 December 2016 - 9:00AM
Review: "Con Man" Makes a Triumphant Return on Comic-Con HQ
Con Man is an odd duck (and I mean that in a good way). Billed as a "love letter" to Comic Cons and the passionate fans who attend them, its first season was as much a commentary about the perils of the entertainment industry as it was a celebration of geek culture. Now, the show is back for its second season after coming home to the mothership (Comic-Con's new video subscription channel, Comic-Con HQ), and it's just as hilarious, cringe-y, and meta as it ever was.

Con Man

Comic-Con HQ



For those of you who don't know, Con Man is a show created, written, and directed by Alan Tudyk, who also stars as Wray Nerely, a cult actor from a cancelled-too-soon sci-fi show called Spectrum who has since failed to find big-time success outside of the sci-fi world. The show follows him as he tours the convention circuit and navigates his relationship with his much-more-successful former co-star, played by Nathan Fillion. (So yeah, it's pretty much meta upon meta upon meta, although slightly less applicable now that Alan Tudyk will probably become a bona fide movie star right around December 16.)

The two episodes made available for pre-screening exemplified everything that's great about Con Man: pitch-perfect performances from Tudyk and Fillion, lots of cheeky, self-aware humor, and, of course, a revolving door of cameos from cult stars hailing from every fandom. Last season saw the likes of Wil Wheaton, gamer and Whedonite Felicia Day, Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer, Angel and Dollhouse star Amy Acker, and fellow Firefly alums Sean Maher and Gina Torres, to name a few, and the first two episodes have already proven just as (cult) star-studded. The Mindy Project's Beth Grant, Arrow's Echo Kellum, and Alias' Merrin Dungey are particular stand-outs, taking part in a laugh-out-loud scene in which (mild spoiler!) Fillion's character is informed that he's been replaced in his blockbuster movie franchise by yet another up-and-coming Hemsworth brother (because they're "not exactly sure" how many of them there are at this point).

And that's where Con Man really excels: sharp, dark, and oftentimes horribly awkward humor about the soul-deadening nature of the entertainment business. Aside from one ill-advised poop gag, all of the humor is clever, and the one-liners are killer, especially in the first episode (when Fillion protests being replaced by the Australian Hemsworth because he's "more American," his agent tells him, "The ruggedness of Australians remind us of the Old America, the one we like to misremember"). And the character work is pretty insightful as well; Tudyk's Wray is your typical thirty-something suffering from arrested development, but you sympathize with his futile struggle to maintain his artistic integrity in a cutthroat industry that is populated with sensitive souls but reflects all of the worst aspects of capitalism. 

As Con Man tells us, "there's no 'show business' without the 'business.'" But funnily enough, Con Man seems to have side-stepped the need to sell out, as much as any TV show can these days. It's a difficult sell in many ways, since it's clearly branded for the geek market, but while the cameos and convention culture humor provide some fan service, the show is much more similar in tone to Master of None than Firefly. So the subscription channel model should be perfect for this show; hopefully the freedom of video subscription service and the niche market of Comic Con HQ allows Con Man to be the wonderful, weird, quirky show that it's become for at least a few more seasons.

You can watch the entire first episode of Con Man season two for free below. The first two episodes are now available when you subscribe to Comic Con HQ.

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