You Should Really Embrace the Lunacy of Eagleheart

Joe “Martin Sheen’s brother” Estevez inhales Chris Elliott’s life force on Eagleheart. It’s complicated to explain. Photo: Adult Swim

To me, there is no more rewarding and consistently, hilariously wacko comedy on TV than Eagleheart, which wraps up its third season this Thursday night at midnight on Adult Swim. Based on its original logline, it was always a weird fit for a network that is the dominant late-night destination for young viewers: Chris Elliott in a Walker Texas Ranger parody — two early nineties comedy touchstones that probably seem perplexingly dated (and therefore easily shrug-offable) to Swim’s core audience. (What, Weird Al wasn’t available to do the theme song?) Yet Eagleheart gradually ditched the ultraviolent-cop-in-a-cowboy-hat easy laughs and this season threw Elliott’s U.S. marshal Chris Monsanto into a MacGuffin of a mythology (simultaneously a parody of serialized cop shows and Bad Robot series) that has given its creators an excuse to veer in more surreal directions than any ten-minute episode should be able to contain.

A recent episode, “Spats,” first had Chris zig into an old-tyme Newsies world (complete with a musical number), then zag into a bloody shoeshine boys/townspeople civil war, and then, in the midst of the carnage, some horny young boys discover a secret weapon that can blast girls’ tops off — and suddenly we’re (boing!) in an eighties teen comedy, complete with busty victims squealing and covering their breasts as a statue bugs its eyes out. At that point, the episode was just eight minutes in: By the time it was over, I felt delirious and drunk. Everyone should get drunk off this show!

Unlike a lot of the Tim and Eric–inspired comedy all over Adult Swim and Comedy Central, Eagleheart has a slick aesthetic; it feels like a cop show, not cable access. And while the show frantically swerves through multiple aesthetics and genres and jokes like it’s trying to lose someone tailing it, the writers and producers (Late Night With Conan O’Brien alums Michael Koman and Andrew Weinberg, and Human Giant’s Jason Woliner) are in complete control. When an episode turns upside down, it follows that direction until the next flip; this isn’t Family Guy humor where random cutaways exist only for an easy joke. Though, just like an animated show, Eagleheart has no restrictions on what it can do with its world. This season has seen: Monsanto blackmailed into working for a blackmail company; another marshal, after being cleanly sliced in half, living his life to the fullest as he waits for the top half of his body to slide off; the aforementioned shoeshine boys run out of town because they were caught doing the depraved act of “sixty-shining” (two shoeshine boys simultaneously shining each others shoes, head to foot).

It’s not too late to get into this season, which is ostensibly about on-the-lam Monsanto on a quest with his partner (Maria Thayer) to find the vanished cohort (Brett Gelman) whom Chris had been falsely accused of fatally throwing into a giant wood chipper: has all of season three’s episodes available for free streaming leading up to tomorrow night’s finale. (And unlike catching up on, say, Scandal, this will only take you about two hours total!) Below, find a sneak peek of the season closer, as Chris finally discovers his not-dead deputy (Brett Gelman) in the jungle.

And a quick note to longtime Chris Elliott fans (tucked here at the end so as not to scare off millennials wary of any Gen-Xer waxing about what made him or her laugh in 1990): This is the most Chris Elliott–y thing I’ve seen in a long time, the closest he’s come to remaking Get a Life. Watching the season premiere, in which the old blackmailer returns home and the show suddenly switches dialogue style and film stock to feel like a cut-rate Arthur Miller teleplay reminded me of the Get a Life episode in which Chris goes to the Big City. One half expects Spewey the alien to show up again. Perhaps next season.

You Should Embrace the Lunacy of Eagleheart