The stated reason that we and comedian Adam de la Pena are spending time with actor Gary Busey is to learn “what makes a man a man.” But that’s just Adam being comically disingenuous: the real reason we’re watching Buse is to learn what a weird fucker he is.
Comedy Central’s new summer series, I’m with Busey, is the latest in the Celebrities Is The Craziest People sub-genre of reality programming. And though it’s been a point of pride with me that I’ve never watched an episode of The Osbornes (didn’t care for him as a rocker, so why should I care for him as a rockin’ family man?) and only made it through the premiere ep of Anna Nichols’ tour of the Borderline, I was ready to sample this ‘un. Like self-professed fan de la Pena, I’ve enjoyed Busey’s acting work ever since he made Buddy Holly more than a toothy guy in horn-rims. He’s performed plenty of able-bodied heavy roles over the years (e.g., the grinning albino hitman in Lethal Weapon) and can often liven up even the lamest B-movie (Predator 2, for example), so I was willing to give the show a shot.
The debut episode focused on four sequences:
Adam being shown around the actor’s home;
Adam watching Busey eat oysters while he waxes philosophically about the experience (Busey waxes philosophically about a lot of stuff in just one half hour; as Adam sardonically notes at one point, “Gary has a lot of answers to questions that nobody asks”);
Adam and Gary going to a dance club, with the latter made up in full drag to experience the essence of womanhood (“Men,” Busey tells us twice, “are failed women at birth”);
The duo fighting as a team on the paintball field (weakest of the four sequences, but I guess we had to include it to keep the adolescent males in teeveeland from a prolonged homosexual panic attack).
Through it all, Busey alternately offers insights and tells the wise-cracking de la Pena to shut up. Every once in a while, the show will break away to a shot of Adam looking into the camera to squeeze in an after-thought joke. At one point, after Busey makes a garbled reference to the “symbology of eating food,” for instance, the show cuts to the comedian who goes, “Let me get my Crazy English Dictionary” for translation.
Is it all a put-on or is it the actual Busey? Is it real or is it scripted? Hard to say. It’s clear the actor – still piercing-eyed and intense after all these tears – gets a kick of keeping us and the soft-bodied comedian off-balance. First thing he does, he tells our guide early on, with guys he works with is give ‘em “a lovingly sensual French kiss.” Yikes! we think for a moment. Is he gonna do it? He doesn’t, but that doesn’t negate the possibility that we won’t get an LSF goodbye kiss when the series ends.
As a nil-weight summer series, I’m with Busey has its moments, but I can’t see it holding up through August. Its biggest joke is based on balancing condescension and fear – more enjoyable than the pity and disgust we feel watching a former Guess Jeans girl stumble about in spike heels, but still fairly limiting. But if being on this series gives Gary Busey a chance to parlay better movie roles, I guess it’s not an entirely bad thing.
Do I plan on watching any more eps? Naw. But I am considering renting Silver Bullet for the weekend. If I can find a copy. . .