[Ed: with apologies to Television Without Pity.]
Will Maggie Gyllenhaal free herself from an over-protective mother? Will Philip Seymour Hoffman overcome a slight case of being Philip Seymour Hoffman? Will Owen Wilson ever stop being cute, and/or find a distributor for his documentary? Will William H. Macy discover yet another way to lose an election? And most important, will your humble recapper be able to remain coherent despite continuous references to that geeky game she always ignored in high school? We won’t find out this week, except maybe for that last one, but at least the wheels will be in motion.
Oooh, oooh, it’s a new Rob MacDougall show. So yes, I laid in the coffee and the popcorn and the encyclopedia because I think we’ve all learned by now to expect our favorite showrunner to bring the references. But that’s what commercial breaks are for, after all. Is everyone ready for a “genre-bending metafictional look at the American heartland”? HBO hopes you are!
Well, we aren’t going to waste any time on getting to know the characters — the opening credits are clearly going to serve as an introduction. Ferdinand the auteur is the color-blind stand-in for the director. Andrew the nerd is the geeky stand-in for the director. Alvin the loser is the political stand-in for the director. Cassie the teenager —
Damn it, MacDougall, why do all your shows have to start with mermaids? I mean, I like a mermaid as much as the next guy but your public is confused. By which I mean me. Does it have to be mermaids? Would yeti serve? We may never know. OK, so Cassie the teenager is the stand-in for the director’s obsession with mermaids. Everyone’s a bit angstful. Cut to credits; the theme song is “Heroes” by David Bowie. HBO must be spending a fortune on this.
Open on Main Street in Muncie. It’s a bright, sunny day and a huge furry paw is leaving a flyer on someone’s windshield. The camera pulls back and it’s some kind of gigantic owl-headed beast [Ed: that’s an owlbear.] wandering around downtown leaving fliers on windshields. Fine, so we’ve got mermaids, we’ve got men in animal suits — I’m expecting a pair of backwoods brothers next.
Sadly, I am disappointed as we cut to Ferdinand and his wench driving somewhere. Apparently Ferdinand doesn’t value her career. Well, he’s Owen Wilson, you know; he’s a little bit more important. Also cuter. He’s got an appointment with his mother at the bank so she can finance his movie. “Don’t you worry that that tie makes you look like a failure?” she asks. Woo, she’s going to be a fan favorite. They take a shortcut to the bank and get caught in traffic. It’s somehow her fault, I’m sure.
Andrew is outside what my crack reference librarian assures me is a gaming store. I wouldn’t know. It’s called “The 20’ by 20’ Room” and if this is going to be a regular set I may have to pass these recaps off to someone else. There’s a dungeon archway made of cardboard leading inside. Andrew interviews to himself that “If you can’t be comfortable here, you won’t be comfortable anywhere.” Yeah, I’d be nervous about going in there too, just for totally different reasons.
Inside it continues to look like a gaming store but what the hell? Angelina Jolie is behind the counter? Is this going to be another one of those fantasy sequences that were old when Ally McBeal had them? She’s looking at Andrew as if she has extremely bad taste in men. He freaks out and throws credit cards at her and flees with a book that I’m pretty sure isn’t the one he wanted. Also, he grabs a flyer. I’m beginning to detect a theme.
The flyer interviews that someone is looking for, and I quote, “Doughty myrmidons, uncanny thaumaturgists, cunning filchers… and a cleric.” I looked all that up for you: a myrmidon is a warrior-type, a thaumaturgist is Harry Potter, a filcher is a guy who steals things (not what you were thinking, there in the back, you refugee from Fark) and a cleric is a guy who prays a lot. Like Jerry Falwell, but useful.
Ferdihunk and his wench are still stuck in traffic arguing as Cassie and some kid who appears to be named Chip walk past. The camera follows Cassie. Cursed camera. Chip wants to know what they’re going to do all summer, since Muncie is dead boring. He’s got potential! Cassie interviews that her mom won’t let her be a lifeguard or really do anything, so she got a job at a coffee shop. Chip wants to know how that happened. Cassie explains that her mom doesn’t know about the job. You go! But watch out, the next thing you know your mom will be speaking to you telepathically and you’ll be reading Tarot cards. We’ve seen this happen before.
Alvin is at Magic Beans buying coffee. I wouldn’t have cast William Macy in the Giles role, but he seems to be enjoying himself. Who wouldn’t when talking to Thora Birch? I’d say that was stunt casting since she was in that awful movie with Jeremy Irons, but Angelina has raised the stunt casting bar so very high. Alvin wants to know why Millie didn’t vote: “Didn’t you see the ad with the eagle?” And we cut to the ad with the eagle, which is dreadful. Millie interviews that she’s not sure what Alvin was running for and points out that her Democratic vote was not going to make a difference in a red state like Indiana. So she’s both clued in and clueless, which is kind of cute. Cassie and Chip arrive and Alvin tries to poll them, but his car blew up. That’ll put a crimp in the campaign. On the bright side, the flyer on the windshield didn’t get burned. Chip keeps trying to flirt with Cassie during all this, but she’s woefully oblivious. He’s got a nice smile for a high schooler, so I think she’s missing out.
Back to Ferdiyum, who is getting out of the car and abandoning his wench. Yay! He bumps into the furry thing from before, who interviews that he is an owlbear. That’s Luis Guzman under that mask! Ferdinand objects to this freak of nature and I cheer from the couch. “Are there octopus panthers?” Well, just my second to last boyfriend; he had easy eight hands and was always hungry. The owlbear snides about Ferdinand’s tie, which is unfair, and hands over yet another one of the mysterious fliers.
And now we’re in Andrew’s house, which is not as horrible as I’d feared. His parents seem kind of nice, even if his father is obsessively working on a model of Muncie from… it’s gotta be sometime before the turn of the century. His mother is doing two crosswords puzzles at once. Andrew is calling the number on the flyer, which belongs to Cassie. Surely Cassie is not behind these? No, she’s as confused as I am. Eventually she puts her mother on, which reduces Andrew to drooling incoherency. “Dungeon… Majesty?” Cassie’s mom, Alice, quite rightly assumes that Andrew is looking for someone to tie him up and play miniatures on his chest and hangs up.
Once more, Ferdinand! (I ran out of pet names, but tune in next week.) He’s playing croquet with his parents trying to pitch what sounds like the kind of very boring documentary that I would watch out of loyalty to my man. It’s about kindergarten. His mother says no, unless… unless he gets a job with Jack Nelson Ford. That’s the same Jack Nelson who beat Alvin’s candidate in the election, in case you weren’t taking notes. I’m not sure how you’d follow this show without, though.
This time we follow Ferdinand’s mother, because Alvin wants a car loan from her. She asks him what he does, and he interviews about the ad with the eagle again, and we see another ad in the same series. Ferdi’s mom says blankly, “We’re not really environmentalists.” Hee! However, since she’s on the lookout for ways to make her son’s life easier, she says she’ll give Alvin the loan if he buys the car from Ferdinand. That’ll teach him to let his car blow up. For a Giles, he’s a real sad-sack.
We pan along the lawns of Muncie, following an enormous 2006 Excrucian SUV. God, those things are ugly. Eventually it arrives at a lawn that’s completely, well, not unkempt but it’s not like the other polished lawns. It’s a Japanese garden, which is kind of nice, really. As the Excrucian pulls up, we see a Jack Nelson Ford logo on the back with a Vote Roger Parker sticker over it, so this must be Alvin’s new car. Yes, there’s Alvin getting out, along with Ferdinand, and there’s Andrew arriving on a Segway. Wait, I want to say that in a squeal. Segway! Ferdisegwayless doesn’t have one of those. Hm. I’m keeping an option open on Andrew.
Alice answers the door and tries to turn the pair away. Alas for her, but thankfully for future recaps, they are a persistent bunch. Ferdinand shows the initiative I knew he had and finds Cassie in a wading pool out back. I hate to admit it but I’m starting to dig the mermaid thing here. Especially since Cassie is so relatively well-adjusted. The four of them, along with Cassie’s kid brother Oliver, try to figure out what’s going on. Oliver explains in a cute 11 year old way that he’s running the game and had the fliers handed out and everything’s looking rosy until Alice threatens to call the police. “She usually doesn’t,” says Cassie, but nobody feels like taking the chance and they flee to Magic Beans. I really approve of the coffee shop as a frequent set, as long as it keeps them out of that gaming store.
Ferdibenefactor buys everyone a latte, Including Oliver, which I’d ordinarily frown on but Oliver seems a little weird already so what can it hurt? Oliver cruelly turns all of them down for the game. Alvin’s upper lip is quivering. Guy, you were turned down by the voters, how much worse is it to be turned down by a pre-teen? And how are you going to react when Millie figures out that you’re making eyes at her and shoots you dead?
Andrew quickly uses his lifeline and asks this online friend of his, named Kestrel (“ooh spooky”) what to do. Kestrel (“ooh spooky”) (“as long as it still makes me laugh, that’s how long I’ll do that schtick”) says that like the Buddhist monasteries, you must ask three times for entrance. Oddly, that advice works and Oliver says they can all game with him after all. Cassie tells Oliver that she’ll help him convince Alice about the game if he’ll help her convince Alice about her job at Magic Beans. I get the feeling the two of them do this sort of thing a lot.
Back to Cassie’s house. The assembled group has chosen Ferdinand to make the pitch to Alice. Everyone has character references and they promise to run the game under Alice’s nose. She hems and haws and lays down a pile of rules that they have to agree to, but in the end she says yes. Which is amazingly generous of her considering the age differences and the general freakiness of the situation.
The four then argue (at the Magic Bean, and I’m getting whiplash) about what characters they get to play. Cassie interviews that she wants to play “the mermaid one.” Huh? Oh, the myrmidon! MacDougall, I’m watching you… Andrew snaps up Harry Potter. Alvin and Ferdinand haggle over the other two; Alvin’s not too sure about being a filcher. “Isn’t that more of a Republican role?” Millie helpfully points out that he could be like Robin Hood, and either that observation or Millie’s quirk of a smile convinces Alvin to take the filcher. That kind of backbone is why you lose elections, kiddo. Ferdinand will play the cleric.
Everyone sits around the ping pong table, BACK at Cassie’s house, getting ready to play. And… cut.
Next week on Dungeon Majesty: Ferdinand, the wench, and Angelina Jolie in that store. Things are not rosy. Andrew gets a package in the mail from Kestrel (“ooh, spooky”). Jack Nelson himself is talking about an opening in the State Senate. And a bunch of kids in black hoodies on BMX bikes are riding across the park, and even I’ve seen those Peter Jackson movies, so I get it! Yay target audience, more or less. I still don’t like that store, though.