NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on June 9th, 2020
On April 23rd 2013, the world was introduced to the most glorious combination of words that has ever existed… Mechanical Dog. On an episode of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice, Gary Busey tried to sell LG Smart Home & Home Entertainment products with an advert that involved Gary turning into a mechanical dog. It is my firm belief that the footage of Gary Busey barking randomly while trying to sell electrical appliances created a spark that would inevitably lead to a show with the greatest title of all time. GARY BUSEY PET JUDGE!
From the title alone you can probably work out exactly what this show is but it is my sworn duty to describe it for you. Picture an episode of The People’s Court, except every single case involves an animal of some sort and the judge is Gary Busey. That’s this series, every episode has two ‘cases’ (which are essentially small sketches between a couple of really good improvisers) and those cases are presented to Gary Busey who basically ignores the rules of court and does what he wants before delivering a nonsensical ruling, often one where the people involved in the case have to pay the judge for wasting his time, and then they go out and get interviewed by an awkward man who didn’t watch the case at all and has a weird moustache. Admit it, that’s the exact thing you picture when you read the words Gary Busey Pet Judge.
Effectively this is a Mad TV sketch that runs for way too long, even at only 6 half-hour episodes, the joke of the series starts to wear a little thin. It slowly goes from laughing at the genuine ridiculousness of the scenario to feeling like we may be laughing at a man who has a serious brain injury from his motorcycle accident in 1988. There are certainly moments where you feel like Gary is going along with the joke of the series and plying along, but then there are moments where he is clearly not connecting to anyone else and you’re just watching everyone try to catch up to where he ran off to. It creates some moments where you end up asking the question that no one want’s to ask… Am I laughing WITH Gary Busey or AT him, because it feels like the comedy they’re leaning on heaviest is just the fact that Gary Busey cannot filter his thoughts and so he says everything in his head.
It’s sad that I have that thought because the setups for these cases are genuinely brilliant. We go from a case of a couple arguing over how to deal with their dead cat (the wife wants to put the cat in a mausoleum that her family built for their dead animals, the husband wants to give the cat a Viking funeral) to a case where a priest who uses venomous snakes in his ceremonies claims religious discrimination because the hotel he was staying in wouldn’t send cleaning services to his room.
Almost every episode has some great ideas it’s playing with and when Gary is playing along with them it works, but the moments he just goes off and starts explaining what random words mean (a Busey-ism, he’ll turn simple words into acronyms… like “poop” is “Pushing Out Old Produce”) blend weirdly between intentionally funny and just awkward.
Some of the case ideas don’t work out so well, one in particular being a case of a dog that comes back from a kennel with a feminine sounding bark which leads to 10 minutes of jokes about how male dogs shouldn’t sound like that and questions on if the dog was fed Soy. Yeah, they try to shove some of that debunked “soy feminises you” crap in here and that killed my joy. A few other cases just weren’t memorable or funny enough, including the last case about a goat which only became funny when Gary threatened to impose the Judgement of Solomon on the goat… yes, you are invited to laugh at the prospect of Gary Busey cutting a goat in half and giving one end to the plaintiff and another to the defendant, you should’ve worked out that this show was insane by this point.
When the show isn’t embracing the weirdness or asking you to laugh at Gary Busey’s behaviour, what remains are a lot of puns. Almost every animal has a pun name, including Mousey Tongue (a pun on Mao Zedong) and Birdy Madoff, or every other real groaner joke was some form of a pun. It rotates these jokes with very little variation but fortunately, they manage to work often enough to get a good belly laugh.
While the series is, on the whole, the silliest viewing experience I’ve had since my last Nailed It marathon, it suffers from stretching a 10-minute joke to 2 hours. You could almost see where each case could be hacked down to 3 minutes, leaving only the golden material, and shoved onto YouTube where it probably belongs. It doesn’t truly wear out its welcome, but the shine definitely starts coming off towards the end. It’s still worth a watch, maybe an episode a day just to cheer yourself up (which, in these challenging times, is essential) but I don’t see much longevity in this. After one season, the joke’s been done in every way they could think of but oh lord what a glorious joke it is.