Tyler Labine: The bear who sees ghosts and gays

It all started with an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? in 1994. But after playing a stoner on The X-Files way back in 1996, funny bear Tyler Labine cemented his shtick in the horror genre for life. In 2001 he starred in short-lived series (13 episodes) Dead Last, about a band that helps ghosts cross over. He was on the horror show Invasion with Eddie Cibrian in 2005, which was canceled after one season. Then he was a sidekick on the awesome comedy series Reaper in 2007, in which Ray Wise played the devil. That show only lasted for 2 seasons. He stuck with the horror comedy angle in the film Tucker & Dale vs. Evil in 2010, returned to a cabin in the woods for more killer comedy in Cottage Country  in 2013, and helped battle a demonic child in the comedy Little Evil in 2017.

But his 2014 Hulu comedy series Deadbeat is where it all came together and completely exploited what we love about him—his humor, his heft, his homo flirtations, and his horror history—to offer up some light supernatural fun we just don’t get enough of anymore.

Sadly, the show only lasted 3 short seasons (36 episodes total). When you get to the third season, you’ll see why. Not only does it jump the shark, but the shark leaps out of the water and chomps it in half, leaving it a gory mess of bloody, smelly chum floating on the surface for the seagulls to peck at.

Here’s a brief overview of each season, with a few of my favorite episodes and notable gay situations.

SEASON 1

Tyler plays Kevin, a deadbeat dude who sees dead people. He offers his help to people trying to get rid of ghosts while working at the newsstand of his drug dealer Roofie (funny man Brandon T. Jackson, who has appeared in just one horror movie, called House of Grimm).

Kevin makes an enemy when he realizes that famous medium Camomile White (played perfectly by So You Think You Can Dance hostess Cat Deeley) is a total fraud. As Kevin spends each episode trying to help ghosts go into the light, Camomile attempts to prove that he is the fraud…but he thinks they’ve got romantic chemistry.

As the characters are developed in the first season, the playful banter between them wins you over, and the show gets better and better with each episode. There are adult themes, but curse words are bleeped out! There are also plenty of guest stars and familiar faces, such as Darrell Hammond, Samantha Bee, Jason Biggs, and Tyler Labine’s old Reaper buddy Ray Wise.

Some of the highlights and homo highlights from season one include:

“The Sexorcism” – In the premiere episode, Kevin tries to help the ghost of a military guy who died in war before he could lose his virginity to the woman he loved. He wants to use Kevin’s body to have sex with her.

“The Knockoff” – Kevin gets involved with the Swedish Mafia while on a case, and eventually finds out that one member of the mob can’t crossover because he never came out to the rest of “The Family.”

“Raising the Dead” – HALLOWEEN EPISODE! It’s the perfect time for us to learn of Kevin’s childhood connection to Bloody Mary when he encounters her again.

SEASON 2

Season 2 manages to get us even more invested in the characters. Kevin still believes he has a chance with Camomile, yet starts to form a strong bond with her assistant, Sue (ridiculously lovable Lucy DeVito…the daughter of Danny and Rhea Pearlman).

That’s because Sue, who is treated like crap by Camomile, has begun to help Kevin counteract the damage Camomile has done to his reputation as a medium. The momentum of the arching storyline really builds in this season, which is awesome…until the season finale, when it all comes to a tidy conclusion so the show can gear up for the shark jumping!

Here are some of the highlights and homo highlights of the second season:

“The Occult Leader” – It only makes sense that Danny DeVito guest stars in his daughter’s show. While he plays a famous hairstylist, the gay guy is actually one of Camomile’s assistants, who loses all control and starts to feel up a cameraman during a supernatural incident while they’re filming a reality show.

“The Polaroid Flasher” – This retro episode has hottie Finn Wittrock of American Horror Story as the ghost of a 1980s cop, and features an appearance by James Franco.

“The Ghost of Christmas Presents” – CHRISTMAS EPISODE! In trying to help the ghost of a mall Santa, Kevin is pledged by a secret society of Santas, which includes getting a candy caning…

SEASON 3

Holy ghostly overhaul! You know you’re dancing to a different Deadbeat when season 3 starts off every episode with an adult content warning. That’s right. No more bleeping curse words. And no more sexorcisms. Deadbeat goes total sexploitation for what would be its last and most perverse season.

It doesn’t hesitate in…um…getting its hands dirty. The first episode has Kevin fisting a corpse to retrieve drugs, setting the tone for a season of nonstop foul language, crude humor, fart and shit jokes, and constant drug use…yet no Roofie. Roofie, Sue, and Camomile have all been written out, and in their place, Kal Penn of Harold & Kumar fame has been written in as Clyde, Kevin’s new roommate and ghost-busting business partner.

That explains why the show feels like an endless stream of tired, adolescent humor recycled from early 2000s teen comedies aimed at kids who got all their smarts from episodes of Punk’d and Jack Ass. Even Labine and Penn seem tired of it, because they look totally bored as they barely go through the motions (or are just too old and tired to fully go through the motions?).

It’s one absurd episode after another, with the writers seeming to forget the show’s premise is about a psychic medium helping ghosts, not two over-aged burnouts eating, shitting, drinking, doing drugs, and getting into inappropriate sexual situations.

Okay, that’s not totally fair. I have to admit, the season tries to dig its way out of the Penn death trap with the introduction of some other characters. First a necrophiliac chick with the hots for Kevin is introduced, but she is quickly phased out (maybe the writers finally thought they’d gone too far?) and replaced by another regular character. Comedian Kurt Braunohler plays frenemy Danny Poker, a medium with absolutely no morals and an anything goes attitude towards sex, providing a Camomile replacement foil to the main characters that I could finally latch onto in the second half of the season. But almost like the creators realized the magic was gone, the finale neatly concludes as if anticipating a cancellation.

Since dumb and dumber buddy scenarios are always loaded with gay stuff, that’s basically how I judged my favorite episodes of the third season, especially since it usually involves cutie bear Tyler running around in the raw (no bleeps this season, but there are bare bear blurs!).

“The Cindy 500” – While attempting to help the ghost of a porn star, the guys delve into the porn industry and are repeatedly mistaken for gay bear porn actors. That alone makes this episode funnier than most this season.

“The Shawshanked Redemption” – Yep, a prison episode. And Kevin is the new piece of fresh bear meat. Hey, nonconsensual sex is never funny, but Kevin’s reaction to the threat of it is.

“Diaper Training” – Kevin and Danny wake up naked together and entirely accept the fact that they blacked out and must have had sex together.

Kevin spends most of this episode virtually naked, moving from the mysterious gay sex situation to Sumo wrestling.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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