First Watch: Quick Draw – “Murder at the Webb Ranch” (Season 1, Episode 1)

The Great Train Robbery, one of the first films with a narrative, had made the Western the first American genre. That was in 1903; the Western has been with us since the beginning. Unfortunately, the Western had been declared dead (a couple of times), but it’s been recently resuscitated by remakes like 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit. Hulu has brought us a comedy set in old West: Quick Draw.

The show centers on a town’s new sheriff, John Henry Hoyle (John Lehr). Hoyle recently graduated from Harvard with a degree in criminology and he uses it — often applying cutting edge forensic science to his investigations. His deputy, Eli Brocias (Nick Brown), has survived multiple sheriffs. Eli has surprising depth, considering his intelligence is dwarfed by his partner’s; although, that is a gut-level feeling, more than anything. Outside of the law enforcement, we have the usual populace of a small town in the old west: the whore, Honey (Allison Dunbar), and the undertaker, Vernon Shank (Bob Clendenin).

When I started the show, I did not realize how much would center around forensics. The forensics are the core of the comedy. I can see plenty of equipment going horribly wrong, or just being a waste of money in upcoming episodes. So far, we have a Harvard graduate that can’t solve crimes. What can he do? Shoot. He got a ‘B’ in Gun class. Accuracy is a skill he needs, because, otherwise, nothing is keeping him alive.

Quick Draw relies on improvisation in the same way Workaholics does. They run the same scene over and over again, with different takes and jokes. Then, the editor has to go in and choose the best takes with the best jokes. Normally an editor would choose the best takes and cut them together with other takes that match up. There are tricks, such as using dialog from one take in another take, but, to an editor, it’s all about making the right cuts at the right time. In this environment, the editor must take the funniest jokes and work around them. It’s probable that I’m the only that can see the awkward shots it makes for, but I did notice.

While I’m excited to see Hulu gamble on projects that have been passed on, I’m afraid I can’t say that it’s paid off this time around. Quick Draw has its moments, but I’ve found Bob Clendenin responsible for most of them — too bad he isn’t the star. One of the things I expect from any western — parody or otherwise — is great music; Quick Draw doesn’t have any. The music seems to be created with a Didgeridoo and minimal imagination. I’ve discussed the challenges of comedy, and a improv show has the same struggles amplified for them, but I can’t praise the show. And trust me, I would have loved to praise Hulu’s stab at original programming.

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