Hey, everyone. RobBarracuda here, and we have a new show premiere on our hands. From the executive producers Stephen Merchant and John Krasinski comes the dreamy experiences of Dream Corp, LLC: a show about a dilapidated psycho-therapeutic facility that gets into your dreams and helps you work through your problems… possibly, if they don’t get distracted too much by random shenanigans. So now, let’s take a look at the first two episodes of this new series and see what we’re working with here.
Episode 1 Recap
Opening on a shot of the dilapidated eponymous facility, a man walks inside and asks the receptionist (Joey, played by Stephanie Allynne) about an appointment with facility head Dr. Roberts. She escorts the man, hereby dubbed Patient 88 (Nicholas Rutherford), into the procedure room where we meet the rest of the hospital staff: the aforementioned Dr. Roberts (John Gries), his assistant researchers Ahmed (Ahmed Bharoocha) and Randy (Mark Proksch), and the robotic assistant T.E.R.R.Y. (Stephen Merchant). Patient 88 has requested Dr. Roberts’ assistance as he seems to be having troubles with his love life and ability to maintain erections. After being sedated by the staff, Patient 88 finds himself in a strange surreal dreamscape, starting off on an abstract representation of the facility itself. As the staff shoots the breeze about their lives, the patient suddenly jolts awake and is forced to be re-sedated.
The patient now finds himself in a high school lunchroom, and Dr. Roberts directly plugs himself into the dream world, which suddenly shifts focus to the patient on a date with his (ex) girlfriend, and a dream representation of his uncle (who suddenly takes the form of Dave Coulier from Full House) begins to flirt with his girlfriend. This ultimately gets at the root of the problem: Patient 88 has deep-seated insecurities about his ability to please women that likely stem from his current unemployment (his credit card got declined during the procedure), so Dr. Roberts’ “prescription” is to offer the patient a job at the facility to boost his confidence and pay off the cost of the procedure. The episode ends with him reluctantly accepting the position as he is sent out of the facility for the time being.
The Smoking Nun recap:
Patient 88 is given an “orientation” on his first day of employment at Dream Corp, and he’s quickly introduced to the first patient he’ll be helping: Patient 54, an elderly woman who wants to quit smoking so she can get pregnant without repercussions. Despite being sedated, Patient 54 finds herself just awake enough to grab the sharpest object nearby and stab Patient 88 right in the neck, forcing Dr. Roberts to get involved and jump into the dreamscape. He helps guide 54 through her dream, including an encounter with two women who accused her of being a whore in her youth.
Also Patient 88 manages to recover and snap back to life. …Hooray!
The dream eventually finds its way to 54’s high school prom that she never attended, with Dr. Roberts as her date. Confessing that she promised her father she’d never have sex until marriage, he offers to have sex with her in the dream to get her to quit smoking. This leads to a sex scene that’s only slightly less awkward than the belly button-fucking from The Room. This treatment works, as the patient denies a cigarette when offered one by Dr. Roberts afterwards. The episode ends with Patient 88 wanting to quit but being forced to stay involved in order to properly complete his therapy sessions according to Dr. Roberts.
The first two episodes of Dream Corp LLC present the building blocks of a really interesting comedy program. Perhaps the best place to start is with the production values, chiefly the rotoscope-animated dream sequences. The quality of the animation is surprisingly top-tier, given that this is an Adult Swim production and I didn’t think they’d be able to afford something like this. It’s not only solid animation, but it also works as a great stylistic choice given the subject matter of dreaming as it helps capture the sensation of experiencing a dream: everything has a strange layer of surreality to it, but everything looks just familiar enough to give some grounding to the experience.
The show’s efforts in creating an effectively immersive dreamlike experience also extends to its visual and sound editing. When characters fall asleep to enter the dream, the camera will hold on a shot as it cuts to a later part of the same shot, in addition to how it just frequently cuts between different scenes across multiple characters and dream scenarios, successfully portraying the choppy fragmented aspects of falling asleep. The sound editing also reinforces this with its constant warbled effects and random pitch-shifting and some pretty cool bits of ambient and glitchy electronic music.
Then there’s the cast of characters we’re given, which are easily distracted absurd individuals, as to be expected with an Adult Swim production. The odd standout in the main cast is the currently unnamed Patient 88, who offers a kind of character dynamic seldom seen in most of the network’s programming. I can’t remember the last time an [as] production had something akin to a legit straight man: a character who very much does not fit with the offbeat absurdist nature of every other character and counteracts with everyone else in the cast. He’s the one character I’m most excited to see and learn more about, although the rest of the cast is entertaining as well, especially the facility leader Dr. Roberts, who proves himself to be a bizarrely effective doctor despite his absent-mindedness. All in all, these two episodes are a strong first step forward for a new series and I want to watch more.