By Linc Leifeste | August 6, 2012
Director: Ken Marino
Writer: Erica Oyama
Starring: Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, Ken Jeong, Abigail Spencer, Janet Varney, Malin Akerman, Noureen DeWulf, Erin Muroski, June Diane Raphael, Natasha Leggero, Kristen Bell, Deanna Russo, Beth Dover, Jennifer Aniston, Helen Slayton-Hughes, Carla Gallo, Morgan Walsh, Adam Scott, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Paul Scheer, Matt Besser, Ryan Hansen, Brian Huskey
“In the real world most men would be vilified for dating 20 women at once. But honey child, this ain’t the real world. Welcome to Burning Love!”
If you’re like me and don’t keep your ear to the ground when it comes to online television programming, you might not even know that Yahoo Comedy’s Burning Love exists. If so, that’s a shame, because it’s about as funny as anything you’re likely to see on TV. As for me, I want to give a big thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse for remedying that sad situation by hosting a marathon of the complete (first) season of the show. And in typical Alamo fashion, they did it up right, by having the husband and wife team of director and star Ken Marino (Party Down, Wet Hot American Summer, Wanderlust) and writer Erica Oyama in attendance at the screening with all proceeds going to the Austin Firefighters’ Relief & Outreach Fund.
A fairly faithful parody of The Bachelor, the show centers around single firefighter Mark Orlando (Ken Marino) and his weekly winnowing of a field of fifteen female contestants, each vying for his “love.” Presented in 14 short episodes (each running approximately 8-10 minutes), Mark ends each one by asking “Will you accept my hose?” as he hands each chosen woman a firefighter hose statuette, a joke that never grows stale. If you’ve seen even a few minutes of shows like The Bachelor you have a sense of the look and feel of Burning Love. Stylistically faithfully reproduced, it takes the faults and foibles obvious in reality shows of this ilk and blows them up for big laughs. Marino plays simpleton firefighter Orlando to perfection with his typical blend of narcissism and mannered sincerity, completely lacking in self-awareness as he delivers lines like “All the ladies were sooooo beautiful…in their own way. But some less beautiful to me. So I’m going to let those ladies go home. Because I can’t be bothered.”
And speaking of the women, there are a wide variety of exaggerated reality show stereotypes (born-again Christian, slutty alcoholic party girl, damaged goods, psychotic stalker, buxom heiress, beautiful with heart of gold) along with less likely and delightfully absurd participants (blind photographer, transvestite, late stage pregnant, closeted lesbian, panda-suited, octogenarian, monkey heart transplant recipient), all of which combine for delightfully over the top dynamics as the crowded field of desperation-dripping women is narrowed down week by week. The actresses are universally spot-on, with not a weak performance to be found in the whole bunch.
The many guest-stars both prove to be both a help and a hindrance, with their appearances alternately boosting the credibility and allure of the show while at times slowing the rapid pace the show requires. Ken Jeong just about steals the show in limited screen time as Ballerina, a sexually forward transvestite who performs the visually unforgettable act of feeding Orlando a carrot and admirably delivers some of the best lines of the show. While an appearance by Adam Scott (Party Down, Parks and Recreation) is always welcome, his recurring role as Orlando’s psychologist is not as tightly scripted and those segments tend to drag. The same can be said of Ben Stiller’s appearances (the show is produced by his Red Hour Digital production company), in which he plays the winner of the previous season of the show.
A frenetic Marino introduced himself before the screening by strutting into the packed theater while serenading the audience with the Village People’s “Macho Man” as he crossed the stage, before eventually swaggering out the fire exit door and locking himself out in the process. Along with a more demure Oyama, Marino introduced the Alamo Drafthouse screening and participated in an adventurous Q&A afterwards, making it quickly apparent that he is just as charismatic and absurdly funny in person as his screen presence suggests. He also made it known that Orlando’s hose will soon be getting around, with season one of Burning Love to air on television in January and a second season potentially in the works.