The final episode of The Moth Effect was released on Amazon on Friday, and while it had some good moments, it’s not a show we will particularly miss. This was a show which promised a lot but mostly failed to deliver. It was a sketch show where the makers (mostly) didn’t manage to get beyond a funny premise. They had a good solid idea for a sketch and…that was it. They didn’t start with their good solid idea and build on it, and they (mostly) didn’t manage to write lots of funny lines in their sketches. They had a funny idea, and that was all you got. One idea and one laugh per sketch. That’ll do, right?
Take the interrogation sketch in episode six. A man is being interrogated by the cops in a run-down warehouse, but the cops can’t extract the information they need from him. Enter Woke Cop, who tries to wear down the man by being over-empathic and sensitive to his needs. And after that doesn’t work, enter Stand-Up Comedy Cop, who bombards the man with piss-poor material until he’ll do anything to make it stop. This sketch had about four laughs in it and went for about as many minutes, with most of those laughs coming from the piss-poor stand-up material. And if you’re wondering why The Moth Effect didn’t just scrap the interrogation premise and give us a piss-poor stand-up routine instead, then so are we. It would have been funnier.
But who needs actual laughs when you can make obvious points instead? The Moth Effect had plenty of sketches referencing topical issues and concerns, such as the lack of government action on climate change (which is a fair point to make but hardly a mirth fest). Another theme we saw several times was woke and cancel culture, such as in the parody game show ‘Who Gives a Shit?’, in which contestants had to answer questions on what does and doesn’t matter. ‘Who Gives a Shit?’ took pot-shots at internet activists, online conspiracy theorists and the ultra-woke but failed to make a solid satirical point beyond “they’re all idiots”. It wasn’t even particularly funny.
Where The Moth Effect was on safer ground was when they parodied TV shows. Several quick-fire sketches concerned an inane breakfast show called ‘Sunnyside Up’ in which a reporter doing a live cross reminded the fun-loving hosts back in the studio of some bleak truths. While the final episode of the series included a solid parody of various reality shows (The Bachelor, Bachelor in Paradise, Survivor, MasterChef, Big Brother) in which the usual fame-hungry types and pointless influencers competed to fuck a television. Partly it was the instantly recognisable premise that made these parodies funny (the high-concept sketches could sometimes be a bit obtuse), but mainly it was the high-ish gag rate that made these enjoyable. Sketches with more than one joke in them! What an idea.
If The Moth Effect wants to make a better second series, it needs to concentrate more on making us laugh than telling us stuff we already know. Yes, the environment is stuffed and the government doesn’t give a damn. But you’re a sketch show, make us laugh about that issue or don’t bother with it.