'Close Enough' (2020) Review: Hilariously Absurd, Adult-Oriented Perfection
Goodbye Park, Hello Los Feliz, CA
Regular Show ended in January of 2017 and Close Enough was announced to debut on TBS the same year. A lot of factors went into the show not debuting until 2020 (on the newly launched HBO Max, no less). Creator and showrunner J.G. Quintel recently did a Reddit AMA and said that the original trailer for the series was a pitch trailer meaning it was created from scratch; there were no preexisting episodes to pull material from. Quintel also mentions an AT&T merger and that developing an animated series is a long process in general; each episode is worked on simultaneously but takes about a year to complete from concept to writing to storyboarding and animatics to completion.
An animation block was planned for TBS in 2017, as well. Close Enough would join Final Space and a Louis C.K. animated series called The Cops. Final Space apparently under performed for the network (even though the third season is set to debut in 2021) and the sexual misconduct controversy surrounding Louis C.K. was the nail in the coffin for his venture into animation. This left Close Enough’s development in a kind of limbo.
During the first season of Regular Show, the idea was that Cartoon Network wanted to push that TV-PG rating as far as it would go. The show got away with edgier content and the dialogue was more adult oriented with, “crap,” being used at least half a dozen times and phrases such as, “How in the H are we going to fix this S?” being used without hesitation. That concept was reversed as the show progressed with that edgier content and dialogue being edited, replaced, and re-recorded in replays and on DVD/Blu-ray sets.
It’s not exactly fair to compare an eight-episode first season (yes, it’s only eight episodes and yes, it’s way too short) to another show with 247-episodes that aired for eight years/seasons and also had a movie, but the similarities are certainly there. Quintel’s style transitions with ease from one series to the other and the formula doesn’t drastically change. At their core, both series are about seemingly ordinary storylines interrupted by the insane and the fantastical.
Fingers Crossed This is a Shared Animated Universe
While Regular Show was about two best friends coping with the menial routine of working at a park every day, Close Enough is about married couple Josh (Quintel) and Emily (Gabriel Walsh) cooperating as a collective unit to raise and do what’s best for their five year old daughter Candice (Jessica DiCicco, Flame Princess from Adventure Time). Josh and Emily live with divorced couple Alex (Jason Mantzoukas) and Bridgette (Kimiko Glenn) to try and save money. While Josh and Alex have been friends since high school, Close Enough is really more about the relationship between Josh and Candice.
Regular Show also dealt with being in your early twenties like what to do with your life now that high school and college are over, what career you should choose, dating life transitioning to marriage, and potentially maturing while leaving most of your childhood tendencies behind. Close Enough approaches being in your thirties, feeling old, not having time for anything as an adult, and relishing the quieter more boring moments over going to parties or staying out all night.
You’ll find a lot of what made Regular Show great wrapped within the structure of Close Enough. Josh is basically Mortdecai and Rigby rolled into one character while that bro-like relationship is split between Josh’s connection with Emily and his friendship with Alex. Emily and Alex are both important in Josh’s life and they seem to be on nearly equal ground. The cool thing is that even though Josh and Emily are somewhat irresponsible as adults they do seem to mostly do what’s right for Candice or eventually come around to doing the right thing. While the original trailer was created from nothing, most of the best moments from the pitch trailer find their way into the season or are improved upon.
Close Enough carries a lot of what made Regular Show so fun like movie references and licensed music montages. "The Canine Guy" is all about Jim Carrey’s film career and Quintel couldn’t resist referencing Sylvester Stallone’s 1987 action arm wrestling epic Over the Top again (see episode 23 in season 2 of Regular Show and the second half of episode 4 of Close Enough called “Cool Moms”). The highlight of the entire season is the opening segment of the second episode “Logan’s Run’d.” Josh and Emily send Candice off to her first sleepover resulting in their first free night in five years. They spend the night doing adult errands in a hilarious montage set to “Turn Down for What.”
Why Yes, That Horse Did Just Make Some Butt Brownies
Close Enough can get away with a lot more than Regular Show did because it caters to adults. No more getting drunk off of sodas and hot wings. Close Enough does it more blatantly with booze and good old fashioned hallucinogenic drugs. The show gets away with just about everything except full frontal nudity and the F-word. You see plenty of hairy butt cheeks and middle finger waving, a trippy marijuana sequence, and the silhouette of a clown stripper’s lower half as he turns his balloon animal-like member from a dog into a giraffe. Adult content aside, Close Enough is able to hide a few Regular Show Easter eggs including an Eggscellent hat, Josh developing a video game called Clap Like This; a video game featured in Regular Show, and a backwards “Satanic” message that encourages the audience to buy Regular Show DVDs.
Close Enough is developed by a bunch of Regular Show alum including Calvin Wong (storyboard artist), Sean Szeles (writer), and Matt Price (voice of Quips). The animated series also has writing credits for Minty Lewis (voice of Eileen), Ryan Slater (producer), Madeline Queripel (writer), Bill Oakley (writer), and Ryan Pequin (storyboard artist). Voice actors making the jump from Regular Show to Close Enough include Fred Tatasciore (voice of Muscle Dad/various), Roger Craig Smith (voice of Thomas/various), Andres Salaff (storyboard artist), Steve Agee (voice of Zaxon), Matt Mercer (voice of Chance Sureshot/Recap Robot), Jeff Bennett (voice of Party Pete/voice of Johnny Bravo), and Rich Sommer (voice of Del Hanlon/Harry Crane on Mad Men).
The voice cast also includes former Saturday Night Live cast members Cheri Oteri, Horatio Sanz, and Rachel Dratch and several actresses from Orange is the New Black; Kimiko Glenn, Danielle Brooks, Lea DeLaria, Lauren Lapkus. David Hasselhoff and Weird Al Yankovic appear as themselves and Noel Fielding from The Might Boosh appears as a giant mustached talking snail with a magic hat. Other supporting voice actors include Max Mittleman (Saitama from One Punch Man), John Early (Dirk from Tuca & Bertie), Seth Morris (Greg Glaser from Big Mouth), Brandon Johnson (Mr. Goldenfold from Rick and Morty), and Marc Evan Jackson (Agent Trout from We Bare Bears: The Movie).
The voice of Rigby himself, William Salyers, does have a voice credit for the last episode of Close Enough; "The Canine Guy." Regular Show fans will miss that dynamic J.G. Quintel and Salyers had throughout Regular Show and their ridiculous freestyling. Unfortunately, the episode credits for Close Enough don’t break down what characters each voice actor portrayed. We can only hope that Salyers voiced Troy aka Dog Boy himself because the character has the most interaction with Josh in the episode and is fairly memorable in his own right.
Close Enough can’t really be properly compared to Regular Show since it hasn’t been around as long. The first season is more like a love letter to the creator’s previous work with a slightly more mature audience. It’s interesting that Quintel addresses what it’s like to be a struggling artist in both shows. Mortdecai could never really find his groove as an artist while Josh fumbles around in life as a video game designer. It’s hard not to like something that goes out of its way to hate Comic Sans as a font though or that throws a metal plate on the main character’s taint for comic relief after a skateboarding incident.
It’s a bummer that the first season is only eight episodes, but it also results in an outrageously entertaining adult-oriented animated series that is able to be binged in one evening. Since both properties technically belong to the same creator and studio, does this mean an adult crossover is possible? The possibilities are endless. Close Enough should be enjoyed for what it is; an escape from our responsibilities as adults in the modern day. As fans, our only gripe should be that it should be picked up for a second season and hopefully not take three years to get to our all too eager eyeballs. Close Enough is a perfectly outlandish and gloriously hysterical exploration of 30s-something adulthood.
© 2020 Chris Sawin