‘Kingpin Katie’ television review
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
The jokesters over at CollegeHumor launched their own comedy streaming platform Dropout TV. I’m here to tell you if their exclusive content is worth the subscription fee.
Back in 2016, CollegeHumor released a sketch video called “Canceling Plans Showdown” where two co-workers have a Western-style showdown. Instead of using pistols, however, the co-workers are both offering up reasons why the other person should cancel on their evening plan to check out a gallery opening together.
It’s a great sketch, but the funniest lines don’t even come from the two leads. At the very start of the video, the woman co-worker (Kassia Miller) asks a passing-by Katie Marovitch if she has plans for the evening, and Marovitch nonchalantly says, “Ah, you know, blowing a couple fat rails.” It’s a bit that barely amounts to a subplot, and yet Marovitch’s fondness for cocaine became a recurring joke in CollegeHumor sketches. Three years later, we get Kingpin Katie.
Kingpin Katie follows Marovitch playing a fictionalized version of herself who’s just trying to live her best life. And by best life, I mean one where her coke habit is slowly whittling away at her livelihood. It’s to the point where in the pilot’s opening scene, she gives a heartfelt monologue about finally getting sober, and her co-workers respond with eyerolls rather than empathy. They’ve been down this road with Marovitch before, but their skepticism is what ultimately drives her to round up her various stashes around the office and attempt to return them. To Marovitch’s surprise, the drug dealer’s return policy isn’t that great and she’s left with $5,000 worth of coke. Wackiness then ensues!
In interviews, Marovitch frequently cites Breaking Bad as the inspiration for Kingpin Katie, and the similarities are everywhere. Both shows follow an unsuspecting antihero who’s more or less interested in doing the right thing, but those intentions become increasingly morally grey as the show goes on. Kingpin Katie also leans into the hit AMC show’s style very heavily, with nighttime desert meetups and slowed-down close-ups during intense moments of character development.
Kingpin Katie has a lot going for it. Marovitch strikes a nice balance between hapless drug dealer and struggling comedy writer to deliver a protagonist worth rooting for. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission and she gives us some terrific sight gags, including dressing up as a Miami Vice-style drug dealer—baggy suit, sunglasses, cigar, and all—to sell coke in a public park.
The show also looks fantastic, from the variety of set locations to the stylistic filming. Kingpin Katie feels like a show found on any traditional television network—a product of the increased budgets allotted for Dropout’s exclusive programs. I’ve been consistently impressed with how great Dropout’s shows look, and Kingpin Katie continues that upward trend.
But for all the parts that gel, there are a few aspects that hold Kingpin Katie back from being truly great. Primarily, the supporting characters are never as interesting or fun to watch as the titular kingpin. In particular, c0-lead Betsy Sodaro’s meter maid constantly delivers a cartoonish performance, sucking all the oxygen out of the scenes and leaving little room for the other characters. CollegeHumor staple Mike Trapp also has a prominent role, playing a perpetually stressed out boss-figure who’s worried about the company’s financial prospects. Trapp is someone who usually oozes charisma and funniness, and it’s unfortunate seeing him bound to a character so one-dimensional, reduced to spewing one-liners about budgets and Marovitch’s work ethic.
Some of the jokes also come across as tired or shock-value humour that carry little weight. For example, Sodaro’s character repeatedly mentions that she’s a recovering sex addict, while also implying that her sexual experiences have been fairly limited. Jokes like this might be passable as one-offs, but for some reason Sodaro repeats some variation on this joke each episode, as if there’s a quota demanding it.
Where the show shines the most is when Marovitch is on her own, navigating the world of amateur drug dealing and combining the dramatic elements with quick quips. In one particularly memorable scene, there’s a mix-up involving explosives, which would’ve fit right in on Breaking Bad as an intense, cliff-hanger ending; instead, Kingpin Katie wisely just shrugs it off in a hilariously anticlimactic moment. Moments like these, and Marovitch’s character, help elevate Kingpin Katie into a funny, light-hearted romp in slapdash drug dealing. Not bad for a television series based on a throwaway line of dialogue from 2016.
Clips of Kingpin Katie can be found on CollegeHumor’s YouTube page, but full episodes are currently on Dropout exclusively.