Jenna Martin looks back at the brilliant web series as it premieres as a TV show tonight:
When a teen-aged Michael Cera, playing Alexander Hamilton against type, opens his mouth in the first episode, his high-pitched stammer is replaced by a deep, slurring voice. Both Cera and Jack Black, who brings his manic energy to the character of Benjamin Franklin in two episodes, are returning for the television incarnation of “Drunk History,” which premières on July 9th on Comedy Central. The show will feature other famous comic actors including Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Jack McBrayer, and Rob Riggle.
Much of the humor of the Web series comes from seeing the conventions of the historical documentary corrupted. Every episode includes stirring music, reënactments filmed in soft focus, and portraits fading into other portraits. In one episode, Benjamin Franklin’s mistress, played by Jayma Mays of “Glee,” is strumming a harp and looking off into the distance, until Franklin pops up from behind a nearby window. I giggled, remembering a documentary about Napoleon which showed a woman’s hand strumming a harp every time that Josephine was mentioned. For people who found Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” a bit too sanctimonious, then the episode, featuring Will Ferrell as Lincoln and Don Cheadle as Frederick Douglass, might be the perfect antidote.