Well, most of you have probably guessed that I like horror movies and TV shows, due to the amount that I review them. And that’s absolutely true. I love horror films, including, or maybe especially, the really cheesy ones, but a lot of that is because, in the cheesy ones, you can constantly imagine some character shutting the whole thing down or mocking the ridiculousness of the situation. Well, former The Simpsons writer and stand-up comic Dana Gould created a series that features that character as the focus. This should have been cliche or not particularly interesting, but two things make it work on this show: The writing is hilarious and the performances are amazing.
Stanley “Stan” Miller (John C. McGinley) is the cantankerous Sheriff of the New Hampshire town of Willard’s Mill. In the first episode of the series he is fired for attacking a woman at his wife’s funeral. His replacement is young and upbeat Sheriff Evie Barret (Janet “I do RiffTrax” Varney), who quickly finds out an interesting fact about her position: Every Sheriff in Willard’s Mill has been killed in office, often very quickly. The only exception seems to be Stan.
Together, they discover that the position of Sheriff is cursed in Willard’s Mill, owing to the fact that a Sheriff previously burned over 100 people at the stake as witches, which made most of them into varying types of demons that all need to be banished. Joining Stan and Evie as regulars are Stan’s immature and unusual daughter, Denise (Deborah Baker, Jr.), and Evie’s incompetent deputy Leon (Nate Mooney).
You notice how the title of the show features Stan? Yeah, that’s because Stan is amazing. Epics have been written about worse characters than Stan. He is everything that you’ve always secretly wished your horror protagonist could be. He’s Ash from Evil Dead without the slapstick or the chin.
Many of you may remember John C. McGinley from Scrubs where he played the misanthropic and abusive Dr. Perry Cox. Well, Stan is that if you took away the medical license and subtracted even the few f*cks that Dr. Cox gave. Yes, Stan has absolutely no f*cks to give and it is amazing. He appears to have really loved one thing in his life, his wife, and she’s dead before the series starts, so everything else is basically just stuff that’s annoying him and keeping him from getting his next beer. McGinley’s delivery is never anything less than perfect and the dialogue written for him is almost always exactly what the character should say in the moment.
Basically, when evil attacks, Stan responds by complaining about how stupid the evil is while simultaneously thwarting it. At least two episodes actually have him avoiding the plot altogether by just flat-out refusing to participate in the demon shenanigans, with him only being involved to save the poor soul that wasn’t as wise.
Janet Varney’s Evie perfectly counters Stan. Where he is apathetic, she is sensitive. Where he is unwilling to get involved, she constantly seeks out the evil to protect her town. She’s not quite as genre savvy as Stan, but she’s more of a traditional protagonist. She also is very good about giving Stan the pep-talks, smack talks, and occasional advice that he needs. Their dialogue is one of the best parts of the show.
Most of the episodes feature a demon-of-the-week, although there are a handful of story threads that weave throughout the show. The series does become deeper and more complex as it goes on but the same elements that you will enjoy the most, namely Stan and Evie dealing with evil bullshit in hilarious ways, stay the same.
The main reason I’m writing this is because this show is currently on its third season and I want there to be a fourth, so I’m encouraging as many people as I can to watch it. Give it a shot if you have the ability, I guarantee it’s worth your time.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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