Executive produced by Diplo himself, Viceland’s first scripted comedy is a spoof of the EDM scene centering on a fictionalized version of the titular DJ (portrayed by James Van Der Beek, because why not?) as he makes music while also contending with imaginary ninjas who ruin his chill. (Yes, that happens.) What Would Diplo Do? dives into this extravagant, hyper-indulgent world and finds a few laughs along the way, primarily in Diplo’s tendency towards self-aggrandizement. However, WWDD? feels like a half-baked Saturday Night Live sketch that got stretched into a series. Thankfully, it’s held together by a great performance.
While the show’s satire might not be as sharp as it could be, the same can’t be said for Van Der Beek, who is hilarious and very charming in the lead role. His earnest turn manages to humanize Diplo, even when he’s being a bit of an idiot, and leads to some of the series’ funniest moments. (At one point his manager Brian, played by Bobby Lee, has to remind him he’s not Jesus, to which Diplo replies, without any sense of irony, “I mean, we won’t really know ’till I’m dead, right?”) As portrayed in the series, Diplo is an intentional contradiction: He preaches unity through music yet spends the entire pilot in a Twitter beef with Calvin Harris (played by Tom Stourton). His struggle to live up to his ideal version of himself sets him up for an anxiety-inducing and compelling existential crisis: Is he a “shamanic healer offering glimpses of enlightenment through music” or is he a “poser who just presses buttons”?
As Diplo strives to find the perfect beat or play baseball in the Dominican Republic, he’s supported by an entourage of inconsistently funny weirdos: his long-suffering assistant Karen (Dora Madison); his vulgar and idiotic childhood friend Jasper (Dillon Francis); the aforementioned Brian; and logical support guy Kröner (H. Michael Croner), whose heavy German accent and nerdy sensibility makes him the butt of most of the group’s jokes. Unfortunately, all four of these characters come off as one-note in the first two episodes of the series. While there’s definitely some comedic potential here, WWDD? doesn’t deliver the joke density or fun absurdity of similar, better send-ups like the Lonely Island’s Popstar. As of now, it’s not offering any glimpses at enlightenment; however, we shouldn’t rule it out as a lame poser just yet.
What Would Diplo Do? debuts Aug. 3 at 10 p.m. on Viceland.