John Lehr (right)
After last week’s sorely disappointing premiere of The Awesomes, Hulu comes much closer to hitting the original programming bullseye with Quick Draw, a Western spoof that begins streaming today. Co-created by writer-director Nancy Hower and writer-actor John Lehr (10 Items or Less), the largely improvised half-hour comedy stars Lehr as John Henry Hoyle, the new sheriff of Great Bend, Kansas, circa 1875. Hoyle was educated at Harvard, a fact that he manages to work into nearly every conversation, which means he has little use for low-tech investigatory tools such as, say, eyewitness testimony when he can flummox the locals with his newfangled forensic science.
Hoyle’s tenure as sheriff was preceded by five other lawmen, all of whom were murdered on the job, as he is cheerfully informed by Eli Brocias (Nick Brown), his suspiciously long-lived deputy.
“So all five sheriffs were murdered, and yet you were their deputy and you survived. Can you guess my next question?” Hoyle asks Eli.
The Great Benders (Bendians?) are unimpressed by their new sheriff’s academic pedigree. In fact, the local saloon and brothel run by acerbic madam Honey Shaw (Allison Dunbar), has a New Sheriff Dead Pool board prominently posted on the bar (“I find that very hurtful,” Hoyle confesses). But when they get a load of Hoyle’s impressive sharpshooting skills, they start to appreciate him a little more.
“I got a B-Plus at the Harvard Gun Club,” he explains modestly. “It was Harvard, and a B-Plus is hard to get.”
As with most projects that are derived from improv, Quick Draw is a little uneven, but more jokes land than miss, and the confident cast clearly knows what it’s doing. It helps a lot that the ensemble includes the priceless Robert Clendenin (if you watch Cougar Town, he’s the hangdog neighbor Tom) as Great Bend undertaker Vernon Shanks, who rebuffs Hoyle’s offer to make him a professionally trained medical examiner, preferring his own time-tested technique (to wit, build a box, put the dead in the box, bury the box and collect the fee).
Only time will tell whether Quick Draw has any staying power, but the first two episodes now streaming on Hulu kept me laughing often enough to look forward to more.