Moonbeam City exists in a post-Archer Vice world. It’s close to seeming like a spinoff from Adam Reed’s coke-blind masterpiece, but what makes it work is that it doubles down on doubling down. Moonbeam City is a more neon Miami with bigger shoulder pads, dumber haircuts, and endlessly pulsing synths. Visually and aurally, it’s ‘80s satire. But the jokes don’t feel old, just a bit scarce.
Created by Funny or Die and Conan alumnus Scott Gairdner, Moonbeam City relies heavily on the inherent hilarity of hypermasculine douchebaggery, much like recent adult-cartoon hits BoJack Horseman and Bob’s Burgers. Playboy and substance abuse tropes are recycled. The jokes about sexual harassment and sodomy and groan-filled sex scenes are predictable. Still, points for execution.
Watching the pilot, you get the feeling that Rob Lowe’s Dazzle Novak, the chiseled, inept top cop at the Moonbeam City police department, will grow up to become Sterling Archer. He’s already got the crassness down, referring to his fellow cop and nemesis, Will Forte’s Rad Cunningham, as “King Dick of the ass forest.” He’s also got a thing for heavily accented skanks, to the vexation of his no-bullshit boss Pizzaz Miller, voiced by a fierce Elizabeth Banks. But Dazzle is younger and less self-assured than his secret agent forebear: When his first big coke bust goes awry, he defers to Kate Mara’s Chrysalis Tate, ostensibly the least psychopathic member of the squad.
Yet, despite its obvious nods to existing shows, Moonbeam City has the potential to grow into something uniquely funny. Miami in the ‘80s, after all, was a parody of itself, and Gairdner milks it for all it’s worth. The Dell Moon Ridge Oaks North-South Circle Square mall — one of many in retail-crazy Moonbeam City — is dotted with stores like Cinnafun! and the JOYSTIXXX arcade. Pop musicians are strictly of the “world” variety. You might at first mistake the clunky dialogue (“Welcome to the brain splat diner. Tonight’s special is you.”) for lazy, try-hard writing, but Gairdner’s ear for Reagan-era corniness is just that spot on.
The best parts — the promising bits — of Moonbeam City are the bizarre jokes on the show’s periphery. By the end of the first episode, we know Dazzle’s capable of saying things like “So when my fifth wife got run over my a mule cart, I married the mule.” Bathing pet mice is a thing that Rad Cunningham apparently does. Are these throwaway non sequiturs, or are they the beginnings of a rich Arrested Development-esque inside-joke canon? It’s too early to tell, but I’m intrigued enough to find out.