Review: 'Gary Busey: Pet Judge'

The genre of television that can roughly described as "reality TV that's really scripted in order to be a comedy" is a category where there are very few highlights. There's "Fernwood 2-Night" and....okay, I'm sure there are others. But the fact that I'm having such a difficult time thinking of other examples is a great illustration of how difficult it is to pull off successfully.

Now Gary Busey is no Fred Willard (that's a sentence I never thought I'd write), but I can see how someone might look at Busey's erratic, painfully disjointed delivery and permanent pandemic quarantine hair cut and think "he would be the great foundation for a TV comedy." I can even see how someone would think a spoof of the "Judge Judy" genre of television might be funny. Although I suspect I might have considered that idea a great deal more entertaining when it was culturally relevant back in 2002.

"Gary Busey: Pet Judge" is a show that includes the bones of a decent idea, but the execution is so uniformly slapdash that each of the 30-minute episodes feel as if they last as long as a Stephen King TV miniseries. Busey's odd cadence and seeming inability to deliver a joke without losing his spot halfway to the punchline makes for some weird and borderline creepy conversations with the fictional plaintiffs. Mike E. Winfield plays the court bailiff and Ian Abramson does the exit interviews in the hallway. And in both cases, actors who can be generally funny are meandering through scenes and delivering lines with all the subtly of someone that is part of a hostage situation.

I watched all six episodes of season one and I couldn't define the bailiff's role in the comedy part of the show if you held a gun to my dog's head. There are exchanges with Busey that I suspect are suppose to garner laughs. But there is no consistency from exchange to exchange and they might as well have Winfield holding a sign that reads "Pay no attention to me, I'm just providing some exposition."

Abramson's character has the opposite problem. The joke is apparently supposed to be that he is really terrible at his job. He asks awkward questions, doesn't listen to what's going on in the courtroom and can't figure out where to play the handheld microphone. It's an idea that isn't terrible the first couple of times you see it. But like convenience store sushi, it's an idea that gets unpleasant pretty quickly.

The comedic value of the cases being "judged" vary in quality from "Man, that's a lame idea" to "that's a pretty amusing one-joke premise." None of them are really entertaining enough to sustain an entire segment. 

There are television shows so spectacularly inept that they are worth seeing simply for the joy of hate watching them. "Gary Busey: Pet Judge" is not one of those shows. This is six episodes of pointless video that seem to have been created more to inflict psychic pain than entertainment value. This is a show that makes me believe that there is indeed too much television for anyone's good. 

"Gary Busey: Pet Judge" is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.