What we lost with the cancellation of the show

On Thursday, Joe Pera of the sublime Adult Swim series Joe Pera is talking to you announced that the show would now end after three seasons. It was, quite simply, devastating news for the many who were lucky enough to absorb Pera’s poetic and humorous thoughts. For those who don’t know, he’s a character with a calming and relaxing demeanor, overflowing with a sharp comedic wit that packs a ton of wisdom. In brief episodes of around 11 minutes and occasionally longer, he was able to create a show as comforting as it was odd as he spent his days roaming Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was like Mr Rogers had a nephew who initially followed in his footsteps, only to stumble upon something at the end that was oddly profound in its own way. As Pera said in one of the mid episodes, “I hit my home run and I got it on my own terms.” His show wasn’t just a hidden gem of Adult Swim, but big-screen television, the kind of odd experience that you would discover on a whim or on the recommendation of that one odd friend, though once you did you would never forget it. While his looks are aggressively ordinary, Pera created something that was truly and brilliantly unique. Even trying to compare it to anything feels impossible, because even when it plays around with the genre and poke fun at itself, it remains an enigmatic work all its own that feels like it’s still evolving .


It wasn’t just Pera either, even if he played a fictionalized version of himself. Sure, the show’s DNA was first experienced in the 2016 specials Joe Pera talks you to sleep and Joe Pera will help you find the perfect Christmas tree. The show at first seemed to follow a similar structure, building around a theme that it then expanded on in a unique way due to Pera’s presence. However, it was also a product of many other talented artists and writers, all of whom were an irreplaceable part of that experience. It boasted the talents of a comedian Yo Flintstone as Sarah Conner, the band teacher that Joe teaches with, who also harbors a deeply felt anxiety about the future. The two represented a true place of comfort for the other, serving as a beacon to guide everyone out of the storms of an uncertain world. Both delicately brought the silly and sentimental to life in the simplest of scenes, creating moments that felt so authentic it was almost as if we were just watching two people go about their lives. Then there was the gloriously disheveled comedian Conner O’Malley like his neighbor Mike, the friendly one Gene Kelly when his best friend was also called Gene, Jo Scott as the caring Sue and so many more. All of the show’s characters had their quirks, despite feeling deeply human, full of fears and dreams they still had to figure out for themselves.

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That any praise of their work reads more like a eulogy of sorts is a shame, as the show is worthy of being admired not through the lens of tragedy but of triumph. Still, much like when Pera writes an obituary for his beloved grandmother, there’s no way, even in the most lengthy pieces, to fully capture what made him so great. It’s a show you have to see for yourself to fully understand what we’re missing out on from a potentially permanent ending point. There is hope that Pera and all of us as viewers will hold on that it could be reborn in some way. When reading his endearing farewell message, which cannot be missed in his sonorous voice, he apparently still has so many ideas for the show. Not only should there be more to let Pera and co. finish it off to end the story, but also because it was so special in the current streaming-dominated landscape. Although it’s happily now fully available on HBO Max, it still feels like a show that represents a bygone era where a spark of genius can emerge from nightly cable shows and blow our minds. As Pera himself said in his departure from the show, it was a miracle it even got the three seasons it had. Nevertheless, it should have been much more.

So many shows only get the green light because they’re based on something with a built-in audience or, perhaps worse, are a conventional story that might seem unique but is still derived from something else. Joe Pera is talking to you is none of that, a real diamond in the rough, which is plenty odd and distinctive. When we lose a show like this, we lose something alive in television’s increasing uniformity. Not only do we lose the storylines that still had room to develop into intriguing new locations, but also the sense of sentimentality and goofiness that came with its unique approach to storytelling. While we can easily be tempted to watch the same old shows over and over again and become deaf to their lack of originality, we should still recognize the value of a show that doesn’t fit any mold. Joe Pera is talking to you was the kind of quietly bold series we need more of, precisely because it’s never been constrained by anything but its own imagination. It frequently turned its own rules and ideas upside down and veered in new directions under a general theme that ended up being unexpectedly stunning. That makes it a show worth continuing for as long as Pera and co want to do it. Whether it could find new life on another network or in any capacity, it’s a story worth cherishing.

Whatever happens, there are a few scenes that will stick in my memory. The first is when Pera spots The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” on the radio and completely loses her mind. Since Joe is Joe, he calls every radio station he can to get them to play it over and over while he runs wild around his house. It’s so cute that not only does it make you laugh and jam, but it redefines the song itself. That’s the power that Pera had on this weird show that has now forever made the tune burn in my mind with the image of him bouncing around. Not many shows can claim to have such a deep legacy, although this will definitely be one of them. The second is the final scene of season three, which could well be its last. In the episode, simply titled “Joe Pera builds a chair with you,” he does… well… exactly that. However, he also leaves us with one final moment of calm. He takes a ride with Sarah, who is afraid of where she currently lives. He shows her a place where she can be free, away from everything else. It’s a place where the two wonderful madmen can start anew. As Sarah starts to wander the property, Joe gets the chair from his car. He then places it in the snow before quietly sitting on it, the first step in his hopes of building a cabin for himself and Sarah. It’s an oddly emotional moment that’s almost teary-eyed like Pera’s, although that may also be due to the fact that he was looking directly at the sun. Anyway, it’s a finale that serves as a testament to how the show has found its own peaceful place in the chaos of the world.

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