TV Review – The Pentaverate

The Pentaverate (Netflix)
Written by Mike Myers & Roger Drew & Ed Dyson
Directed by Tim Kirkby

In the 2000s, Mike Myers was one of the biggest comedy stars in the world. Just Shrek alone made him rich, but add onto that the Austin Powers franchise and the enduring love for earlier projects like Wayne’s World and So I Married An Axe Murderer. Then The Love Guru came along and like magic it was all over. Audiences cringed at that picture and he hasn’t made a big splash since. Until now that is, with his Netflix series The Pentaverate. I watched this entire show for one big reason, I wanted to see just how bad Myers had become and I had no idea just how terrible it would be. This is one of the worst self-indulgent pieces of media I have seen in a very long time.

In the 1993 dark romantic comedy, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Myers plays both the protagonist and the protagonist’s gruff Scottish father. In one scene, the Scotsman explains the Penaverate, a secret society that runs the world and includes Colonel Sanders in its number. The Pentaverate as is explained to us multiple times in the series is a secret cabal but one devoted to doing good and solving problems in secret. They are Brit Lord Lordington (Mike Myers), Australian media mogul Bruce Baldwin (Myers again), Russian oligarch Mishu Ivanov (Myers yet again), and rock n’ roll manager Shep Gordon (would you believe it? Myers).

Do we ever really see that aspect of do-gooding on display over the course of the six episodes? Nope. Instead, they sit around and quip until the conflict kicks in and they do some things. Ken Scarborough (also Myers) sets out to reveal the Pentaverate to the world to get his job back at his former Canadian news network employer. He gets help from plucky production assistant Reilly (Lydia West) and conspiracy theorist Anthony (*sigh* also….Myers). Oh yeah, there’s a very poorly done Alex Jones parody. Can you guess who plays that character?

There’s also a murder mystery element as the previous fifth member Jason Eccelston (can you believe it? Also, fucking Myers) died under mysterious circumstances. A few more bodies show up but ultimately the reveal falls flat and doesn’t feel like it matters. It doesn’t help that the entire series is a complete mess from episode one. On the one hand, Myers is attempting to unload a lot of his personal political feelings about modern society. He’s very much a Canadian, bordering on nationalism perhaps? Many of the jokes are the typical Canada vs U.S. things, nothing particularly clever. Then there is the scatalogical/dick humor which is constantly smashing you over the head. We get to a moment where the story might be developing or we’re learning more about a character and then a joke about pooping or balls lands with a thud in the middle of it. 

An example of this is the gross Russian stereotype Mishu whose accent becomes the character’s defining trait. He’ll say one word but it will sound like a “dirty word”. “Can’t” becomes “cunt”. Ha ha. Isn’t that hilarious. There’s also a bigfoot who shits on the floor. That’s the joke for that character. These bizarre comedy pivots bring what might have been (probably not) an entertaining moment into a middle school boy-minded piece of dreck. As with all Myers’ work it is heavily derivative of things that appealed to the man as a child and especially his often referenced reverence to his late father. The Prisoner is one very obvious touchstone in The Pentaverate as are the Peter Sellers’ comedies he fawns over. 

Myers’ comic sensibilities just haven’t aged well. That isn’t to say he’s outrageously offensive. I would point to the recent Kids in the Hall revival as a counter-example. They are contemporaries both nationally and comedically to Myers, mentored by Lorne Michaels during the same period. The Kids have not skipped a beat and for fans of their old stuff they have remained true while also changing some elements. The comedy in the series is often centered around aging and critiques of their own Gen X contemporaries. The result is a comedy show that feels like it is made by old men who haven’t succumbed to reactionary thinking.

Myers is still trying to hit all the same buttons that worked in the late 1990s and they simply don’t anymore. His comedy hasn’t reshaped itself to work in a new context. He’s a bit dirtier as the Netflix streaming platform allows him this, but the source of his humor feels calcified. Instead of refining his tool box in the wake of The Love Guru, it seems Myers just sought to wait it out, come back at some point and see if the old shit still worked. It does not. Maybe with better writing Myers has a continued future in comedy but as it stands I have zero interest beyond rubbernecking the demise of a once beloved comedic talent.

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