TIME TRAVELING BONG Review
A rather glaring misstep in both presentation and delivery, Comedy Central’s TIME TRAVELING BONG is almost resolutely disappointing on all fronts. Now, I know, the knee-jerk reaction is probably something along the lines of “Just where do you get off criticizing a mini-series that is literally called TIME TRAVELING BONG?” Well, to you, dear reader, I would point out that everybody loves the pastoral stupidity of a good stoner comedy once they’ve finished puffing on some recreational cannabis, or medical for that matter. Luckily, for those who are interested in marijuana, there are a lot of resources online that can help them get into the mood for a stoner movie. Sites similar to King’s Pipe may be just what they are looking for, to enjoy a bad movie. TIME TRAVELING BONG, however, doesn’t even manage to get the “stoner” part right, instead turning in a disappointingly joyless, disjointed jaunt through several hasty set pieces, only garnering laughs in the most scattershot of manners and ramming social and environmental commentary down our throats that concurrently feels as if it were compiled from the Facebook shares of Tumblr feminists and the kids in high school who used to come to class high on acid. A time traveling bong should have been an enjoyable stoner film that you and your friends could sit back with a bong (from somewhere like https://www.grasscity.co.uk/brands/black-leaf-glass) and experience, however, it falls as soon as it begins.
Really only existing as half-assed improvisatory wankery thanks to the success of BROAD CITY (the show where Ilana Glazer and Paul W. Downs of the show got their big break), TIME TRAVELING BONG lacks any sense of necessity or vitality. Part of this is due to the head-scratching format of presentation. Although I would argue that the miniseries is one of the most underappreciated forms of storytelling, three episodes of 20 minute “comedy” is nearly dead on arrival. 60 minutes isn’t enough time to field the bizarrely galactic scope that TIME TRAVELING BONG deals with, but also isn’t enough time to be considered episodic. As such, the clunky and egregious aspects of the narrative are thrown in harsh, revelatory light, exacerbated all the more by the immensely squandered potential.
“Get your fucking shit together”
Telling the story of Sharee and Jeff, two cousins who witness a man and woman get run over by a car only to find their bong in the nearby bushes, smoke out of it, and travel back in time, TIME TRAVELING BONG possesses a premise that could actually work quite well if properly developed. The idea that a standard bong purchased from somewhere like Smokea can have time travelling capabilities actually has a lot of potential, but the show does nothing to make the idea seem novel. The pilot transports them to Salem during the eponymous witch trials, only to have the bong be quickly broken and shoddily repaired, contributing to a long and winding journey back to the present; this is episodic gold! If each episode saw them in a different era, forced to summarily adapt and work against the trials and tribulations of the time period in order to further their return journey, you’d have a series with both comedic and dramatic potential on your hands. Instead, we have hurried and half-baked sprints through arbitrary temporal selections, incongruously jumping from Salem to cavemen to the days of slavery to the 60s to Ancient Greece to the future. These are all connected with little-to-no rhyme or reason, which is a shame, because each and every one of them could be developed into something memorable if given a full episode in which to do so, especially if the conflicts were tied into the inherent “stoner” implications of the show title. However, for some inexplicable and profane reason, Sharee and Jeff are introduced as only the most recreational of stoners, and weed is only brought up whenever they have to smoke in order to travel again! HOW THE FUCK YOU GON MAKE A SHOW CALLED TIME TRAVELING BONG AND NOT HAVE ITS CHARACTERS SEEM TO GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT WEED?
That bong is purely for the A E S T H E T I C
Instead, the show elects to focus almost entirely on social commentary, which I suppose is rather generically commendable, although not an appealing implant into its genre’s host organism. It’s not bad commentary, just gratingly obvious. Yes, women were treated poorly in 1692. Yes, women were also treated poorly in the 1960s. Three guesses as to which racial minority got the short end of the stick in the American South in the early 1800s. The only somewhat clever juxtaposition the show manages is to have Jeff feel as objectified and fearful during the time of cavemen as Sharee does during the Salem witch trials, but this still possesses the unsavory connotation of cavewomen wanting Jeff for his sexual propensities, while Sharee is subjected to imprisonment and abuse for having the audacity to be born with a vagina. The show then switches to environmental commentary during its final trimester, providing yet another recyclable apocalyptic landscape engendered thanks to the wastefulness of humanity, and being sure to knee us hard in the jiggly bits with the fact that Monsanto is the one to blame.
The show is at its best (and funniest) when it throws away its tired attempts at being given the social justice stamp of approval and allows itself to lean into the potential consequences of attempting to alter historical events. The best segment by far is the one in which Sharee and Jeff attempt to raise Michael Jackson as their own in order to prevent the infamous events later in his career. This finally intimates the stoner comedy the show should have been situated in, as this premise feels like something your friend would come up with after a bowl or five. Possessing a welcome and tonally inconsistent willingness to finally indulge in a bit of black comedy, the child molestation and plastic surgery jokes come hot and quick, and there is reference to the theoretics of time travel that bespeak of a maturity absent elsewhere in the series. However, this segment isn’t enough to forgive the tepid banter between Sharee and Jeff that constitutes the majority of the show’s remaining content. Also, I’m sorry folks, but are none of you willing to admit that Ilana Glazer kinda sucks at delivering lines?
Apart from a stellar show intro, a zinger of a tagline “Puff, Puff, Past” (if only anything contained within the show was so clever), and the rare joke that lands (I must admit I chuckled when Sharee is convicted as a witch because she can read her own statement), TIME TRAVELING BONG is guaranteed to disappoint almost all potential demographics. Not possessing nearly enough of a milieu dedicated to weed culture to appeal to stoners, not possessing enough humor to appeal to those who…like to laugh…?, and not possessing enough substance to carry it through its frustrating 60-minute runtime, TIME TRAVELING BONG continually swings and misses. However, this will probably be the only “Do Not Recommend” I give alongside the caveat that I would have a genuine desire to explore the series if it were revamped and more caringly tended to.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend
TIME TRAVELING BONG is available for purchase through Comedy Central