TV review: Inside jokes makes ‘Detroiters’ better

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

Comedy Central’s new sitcom “Detroiters” could’ve just as easily been called “Inside Jokes” because the show, which premieres Tuesday, is full of them.

That’s exactly how the series’ creators and stars Sam Richardson (“Veep”) and Tim Robinson (“Saturday Night Live”) planned it. The pair layered “Detroiters” in such a way that the humor is relatable for the uninitiated, but more deeply appreciated by those in the know. While some of this ribbing is worth a chuckle or two, other details and storylines are laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Veteran TV anchorman Mort Crim, 81, who retired from WDIV-TV (Channel 4) some 20 years ago, for instance, can be seen delivering the fictitious news as a version of himself from the pilot episode on. (Critics were allowed to screen the first three installments.)

There are references to drinking Vernors for stomachaches and an insane amount of around-the-clock Coney dog consumption. An empty bag of Better Made chips even makes a memorable cameo.

Best of all, there is a warm and fuzzy feeling when Richardson and Robinson, who play characters with the same first names, are seen trotting around downtown, Midtown, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Temple Bar and even Belle Isle wearing a “What Up Doe” T-shirt or two.

The two struggling ad men stop at the London Chop House when trying to land a Big 3 client (played by guest star and executive producer Jason Sudeikis) and reside in neighboring houses in the city’s stately Woodbridge neighborhood. Making matters funnier, Tim is married to Sam’s blue-collar sister, Chrissy (Detroiter Shawntay Dalon).

Whereas ABC’s defunct “Detroit 1-8-7” failed to find out about the local use of the word “pop” and other native gems until it was too late, “Detroiters” relies on such references and more. As a result, the comedy feels like an organic and positive take on the city because Richardson and Robinson are from the area and in on the joke.

Richardson grew up in Detroit’s Boston Edison neighborhood, and Robinson hails from Clarkston. The two even performed and took classes at Second City Detroit together as teenagers in high school. Both men live in Los Angeles now.

They also know that there’s more to the city than crime and blight, and instead happily focus on everyday life. It’s that affinity and familiarity that shines through in parodies of Richard “sexy specs” Golden, Mel Farr Superstar, and a Monica Conyers-type councilwoman (guest star Wendy Raquel Robinson) who becomes smitten with Sam.

Native Detroiter Keegan-Michael Key and TV veteran Malcolm Jamal Warner also make appearances, as does Steve Higgins (“The Tonight Show”) and the Slow Roll bicycle group.

While there are a few times when the geography on the show strays away from reality — a hot tub store in the suburbs is passed off as being a lot closer to downtown than it could ever be — such adjustments are too minor to dwell on. Crude topics and course language might also rankle a few viewers.

But in the end, this is a comedy by natives for natives and residents near and far. It’s that undeniable sense of pride and ownership that will make you “stand up and tell ’em you’re from Detroit” between bouts of laughter and smiles.

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based TV critic and entertainment reporter.



Premieres 10:30 p.m. Tuesday

Comedy Central