I have long been a fan of Tyler Labine. I’ve watched him through the good stuff (Reaper, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and the bad (Animal Practice, Sons of Tucson), but always, good or bad, continued to admire his comic timing and his understated delivery. Every time he is cast in a new show, I’m hopeful it will work out for him because I do strongly feel that he deserves to be on TV. I don’t know if his latest project, Deadbeat, the first ten episodes of which will be released on Hulu tomorrow, is the vehicle that will finally make him a household name, but at least it’s a solid, quality show.
Deadbeat is about a lazy, substance-abusing man named Kevin (Labine). He has little going for him. Oh, and he can see the dead. Sort of like Ghost Whisperer, in which the deceased appear to Kevin and ask for his help in fulfilling their unfinished business. Kevin usually reluctantly agrees, either because he’s a good person or he just wants the voices to stop, and they are able to move on.
It’s a fairly simple premise, but done in an hilarious manner. For instance, in the first episode, Kevin meets a boy who died in the war, still a virgin, who wants to possess Kevin’s body to make love to his girlfriend. What happens next isn’t exactly what Kevin is expecting or hoping for, but he takes things in stride, sucks it up, does a bunch of magic mushrooms, and helps the ghost complete his purpose, even if it means Kevin has to do something most people would not. It’s crass humor, to be sure, but it’s also incredibly funny for those who like this kind of thing.
Kevin is not just the stereotype; there’s some real depth lurking under the surface. One gets the sense that he’s not lazy, just exhausted from what the ghosts put him through. Maybe he uses the drugs he does because it helps him cope with his weird life. He seems well-adjusted, but it could be covering up the toll this all takes on him. He only has one friend, his dealer, Roofie (Brandon T. Jackson, Percy Jackson), but that could be because his work drives others away or freaks them out, which has to weigh on Kevin, too. Pain is evident in Kevin’s eyes. While he may appear a person easy to pigeon-hole at first, there do seem to be some rich characteristics that Labine can take advantage of, should she show run for awhile.
To back up that second level I’m talking about, we can examine his interactions with fellow medium Camomile (Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance). He likes her, and he goes to great lengths to make a connection, seeing someone he might actually be able to relate to. When she is exposed as a fake, though, he doesn’t set out to let the world know; he’s just supremely disappointed. When Camomile comes after him, he’s still more a beaten dog than a fighter. He doesn’t want revenge. He just wants someone who understands him.
Now, there will be plenty of people who only watch Deadbeat for the laughs and won’t want to consider anything else going on, perhaps even scoffing at this search for deeper meaning. However, I do think it’s present in “The Sexorcism,” so likely will be in other episodes. And whether one wants to stop and ponder exactly who Kevin is, his emotional complexity will raise the level of authenticity for the stories overall. I hope Labine gets the credit he deserves for bringing this fascinating character to life. With a very small cast, he’ll definitely get the screen time.
Watch Deadbeat on Hulu, beginning tomorrow.