I‘ve written before about my love of all things noir, but loving something doesn’t preclude one from being aware of its flaws. In fact, some might say that to truly love something, you must acknowledge what’s wrong with it. If that’s the case, then Dipu Bhattacharya and Tom Chamberlain are even bigger noir fans than I am.
Richard Panceliss (Chamberlain, who also directed the series) is The Pantsless Detective, a classic noir P.I. You can tell because he wears a fedora and a trench coat and has a world-weary inner monologue. He used to be a cop (and a damn good one) until a rival framed him for some kind of misconduct and got him kicked off the force. It’s not clear what the misconduct was, but it would have had to be something pretty bad, since his superiors were apparently willing to overlook the fact that he never wears pants. Sandals, sure, but not pants.
You wouldn’t think costuming would be a priority for a show with a pantsless hero, but one of the reasons this series is so adept at pulling off the noir feel is that the creators clearly have a handle on the look. Sometimes a hat and trenchcoat combo isn’t good enough. You need the right hat and the right trenchcoat. Kudos to costume designer Virginia Hemstreet for putting it all together.
That tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this show. It’s a satire, a send-up of every cliché one might find in a pulp detective novel. It’s one of the silliest shows I’ve seen since I started writing reviews, but also one of the funniest. This isn’t highbrow humor, here, but it doesn’t need to be. Bhattacharya (who also plays Panceliss’ assistant ‘Smitty’) has written a joke into virtually every line of this show. Every moment of action is either a set-up or a punchline, and every cast member has fully embraced the fun. There are puns, sight gags, sound gags, moments of Abbot-and-Costello-esque schtick and did I mention the hero doesn’t wear pants? Each episode ends with a (usually nonsensical) cliffhanger and starts with the entire previous episode being played in fast-forward. It’s a great time, doll face.
***UPDATE*** In Season 3, “Framed by the Past,” Dick agrees to help a mysterious woman from his past, leading to a long chase off a short cliff, a charge of murder, kidnapping by a mysterious crime kingpin, and the Kiss of Death! Meanwhile series regulars Temperance Friday, Smitty and Sgt. McAdams team up to spring the gumshoe. Things wrap up, but not before the mystery woman becomes a whole new problem for The Pantsless Detective.