The Guest Book premieres August 3, 10pm on TBS.
By John Baker
The pages of the Foggy Cottage guest book offer far more than cursory reflections on a stay at a rustic cabin in a nameless woods.
But that’s the fun little hook in the new TBS comedy The Guest Book. Adventures of many kinds greet the visitors to the great outdoors and the rooms of Foggy Cottage, and the guest book serves as a nice place to anchor the thoughts of one character for each episode, spilling out the hurts, desires, quirky thoughts and odd predicaments that occur in this wonderfully odd place.
The 10-episode first season, set to premiere Thursday, Aug. 3, offers a fun mix of adventures and issues for the different visitors who spend time at Foggy Cottage, while a cast of regulars continue to help move those adventures forward with comedic joy in their own weird, dysfunctional way.
Wilfred, played by Charlie Robinson, and his wife Emma manage a group of vacation cottages in the slip of a town called Mt. Trace. Vivian (Carly Jibsen) is a buxom older woman who not only runs the closest thing to a strip club the town offers, but does a little dancing and attempted blackmail on the side. She uses her step-son Frank (Lew Wilson) as an errand-runner, which usually entails the poor lad, who has dreams of better, following prospective blackmail victims home from Chubby’s Bikini Bar with a VHS of what goes on in the VIP suite — which isn’t much, to be honest. The bar is a hotbed of barely conscious and engaged dancers and very few customers. Vivian, though, is motivated.
Also helping to move the fun forward is Officer Kimberly Leahy and Dr. Andrew Brown. Leahy has a mad crush on Brown, but he’s still trying to rekindle the romance with his ex-wife, who is having none of it at every turn. Leahy keeps flirting and hinting while Brown keeps missing the advances and pining for a return to married bliss with a woman who wouldn’t know bliss if it crushed her in a headlock.
While these folks are the episode-to-episode mainstays of the show, the fun really kicks in when yet another group of folks descend on Foggy Cottage with their own unique baggage of issues and interests. We get everything from a devout Christian mom (Stockard Channing in a marvelous turn) determined to drug and baptize her son’s atheist girlfriend in the hot tub to a former porn star trying to act normally around her new boyfriend and his daughter after consuming a week’s worth of pot brownies.
And what happens is recorded in fun detail in the guest book. It’s an effective little device to help with the show’s narrative flow, I think. Instead of talking to the camera, the guest book serves as a source of narration. Sometimes the guest book is out in the open, sometimes hidden and found through happenstance.
The show is a fun mix of subtle humor, oddball decision-making and characters that are just far enough out there that you spend a lot of time chuckling in entertained bemusement. They are joyfully odd and that makes this show tick, in my opinion.
The show also offers some familiar faces visiting the Foggy Cottage, including Michael Rappaport, Jaime Pressley, Jenna Fischer, and others you’ll recognize.
Guest Book is an eclectic and smart comedy that drops visitors to the mountain into a fun little cauldron of odd human interactions and the stew that’s created is a lot of fun.
I really enjoy how the show ends as well. While we see the car of the guests rolling down the highway to their who-knows-where hometowns, they are passed on the highway by the vehicle bringing the next guest to Foggy Cottage, all the while a musical performance is being delivered, ostensibly in the seedy confines of the bikini bar. The fun here is that if you listen to the lyrics being sung, they correspond to the issues and results of the episode as a whole. I think that’s a fun touch and something I really dial into now. It’s a fun little extra that adds something to the overall experience.
The Guest Book isn’t a slapstick, let’s spit-milk-out-of-our-nose from laughing so hard comedy. It’s more subtle than that and it is exactly that reason that I enjoyed it so much. There are lessons to be learned from the stories that are told, but with a nice comedic treatment. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
I give The Guest Book a B-.