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Coffin Flop, Corncob TV’s big hit, could easily be an actual reality show

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson premiered its second season on Netflix today, and offers another six short episodes of usually absurd, often hilarious sketches. Some of those play off of other TV shows. After “Baby of the Year” in season one, a pageant that would have seemed at home on Fox in the 2000s, we get “The Little Buff Boys” pageant in season two; both are hosted by Sam Richardson. But this season starts with two sketches that mock very specific corners of reality television that I very much appreciated. (Watch them first before reading this.)

My absolute favorite is episode one’s second sketch, “Spectrum,” which takes the form of a cable channel pleading with viewers to help resolve a carriage dispute with a cable company. It focuses on a fictional network, Corncob TV, that I would not be surprised to find out actually exists; it resembles a combination of Reelz and Investigative Discovery, CMT and WEtv.

We’re told it will be dropped from Spectrum cable at the end of 2022. The unnamed, on-screen host, played by Tim Robinson, appeals directly to viewers about this impending change: “That means you won’t be able to see some of your favorite Corncob TV shows, including Coffin Flop.” Cut to a scene from a funeral, where a casket is being carried by pallbearers, and immediately the bottom drops out and a body hits the ground.

A screenshot of the fictional Corncob TV reality show Coffin Flop from Netflix's sketch comedy series I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson
A screenshot of the fictional Corncob TV reality show Coffin Flop from Netflix’s sketch comedy series I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.

This is dumb humor, and it is hilarious, but Coffin Flop also manages to make some points about certain kinds of reality TV shows and how they’re produced. Let’s be clear: I completely lost my shit—crying and hyperventilating— while watching this not because of the satire or cultural commentary, but because of the shock value of the footage: body after body falling out of coffins. One rolls down a hill, another falls out of the back of a hearse. At one funeral, a kid is knocked over backwards with surprise.

The quick scenes of Coffin Flop are impressively shot, and a technical feat that involved a lot of people. The credits point out that this sketch, “Spectrum,” had a different director, Jeffrey Max, and other crew members unique to the sketch, including its own director of photography and sound mixer; its own special effects company, Fatal Farm; and two “Coffin Flop” operators, Nate Cornett and Joe Stakun. There are also 14 stunt performers listed in the credits, though it’s not clear how many of them were coffin floppers. Whoever you are, thank you.

“We showed over 400 naked, dead bodies on our show Coffin Flop,” Robinson’s character says, and proceeds to show us many of those. His character, referring to the (again, fictional) cable company executives who’ve made the decision to drop Corncob TV, lets us know why they object to Coffin Flop, including the lack of consent from family members. While getting increasingly exasperated, he also says:

They’re saying Coffin Flop’s not a show. It’s just hours and hours of footage of real people falling out of coffins at funerals.

They’re saying it’s impossible that that many dead bodies are falling out of coffins every day, and it’s impossible that one out of every five of them are nude. I don’t know what to tell you but we’re just shooting funerals and showing the ones where the bodies fly out.

They’re saying, No way. You must have rigged something. I didn’t do fucking shit! I didn’t rig shit! I’ve been waiting a long time for a hit on Corncob TV!

The over-the-top defensiveness is perfect, especially how it becomes a confession of utter desperation. With networks demanding big, loud reality TV show concepts from producers, some of whom will just do the network’s bidding regardless of what that entails logistically or ethically, it’s not hard to imagine ending up with a real-life Coffin Flop on a cable channel soon.

Tim Robinson in character as a prank show host during a sketch on I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson season 2
Tim Robinson in character as a prank show host during a sketch on I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson season 2 (Photo by Kevin Estrada/Netflix)

The sketch that immediate follows opens with a title card for a prank reality show called Everything is Upside Down, and we see its host, Carmine Laguzio (played by Robinson), in his trailer introducing “Prank Mission #1: ‘Karl Havoc’ causes mayhem at the mall.” He explains, “We’re going to be capturing real reactions from people as Karl kind of messes with their day: takes their lunch tray, steals a fry off their plate, talks loudly on his phone about his dog is loose.”

This is a setup we’ve seen before, on shows such as Punk’d, Scare Tactics, and Netflix’s terrible Prank Encounters.

The initial absurdity is almost entirely in a sight gag about how poor these kinds of costumes usually are: Carmine is transformed into Karl Havoc, but it almost immediately looks ridiculous, the worst Face Off cowl and prosthetics you can imagine. His head is too big, his bulbous, muscular arms look fake, and there’s no blending of the mask so it looks like a mask. A producer talks to Carmine through a headset, guiding him to steal someone’s lunch, but Carmine just stands there.

He finally says back, “There’s too much fuckin’ shit on me; I can’t breathe.” He gets angry, and then it gets dark, as he says, “I’m not doing it. I don’t even want to be around anymore.” The contrast between the visual comedy and the lugubrious response is surprising, and there’s also a sharp observation here, highlighting just how sad and pathetic it is for adults to dress up to fuck with people who don’t know they’re being filmed.

Neither of these I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson sketches is pointing out something totally new or surprising, of course, and two decades of reality TV have created plenty of big, easy targets. But both sketches wrap an argument, or at least an observation, in delightfully farcical situations and preposterous images, and I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed both the observation and the laughs.

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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