The Pentaverate Review: Mike Myers At His Most Unrestrained

The timing for "The Pentaverate" debut couldn't be worse: it's a bloated Netflix original by an aging white male movie star that in no way justifies its cost. The six-episode series has a wacky premise: a Canadian local-news anchor, Ken Scarborough, is fired for being old and out of touch, leading him to investigate a secret underground organization that pulls society's strings from the shadows, hoping the "big story" will win him his job back. The comedy feels woefully outdated, the premise stupid, and the attempts at diversity forced (at least initially). The jokes are so crass they're uncomfortably unfunny. Generally, the show is all too much Mike Myers.

It would be very easy to write off "The Pentaverate" as an unfunny disaster, completely devoid of artistic merit; however, that's not quite the case. The series is weird, over-the-top, and definitely cringeworthy — but it has moments of being clever, sweet, and honest. The jokes that do land are laugh-out-loud funny, and some of the visuals are inspired. There's a heady mix of heart, action, and parody; it's not a series for everybody (I'm not sure who this show was made for, other than Myers himself, obviously) but it's not unwatchable either. This feels like a personal project for Myers that is unique to his comedic stylings, for better or for worse. 

Mike Myers has still got it...

"The Pentaverate" is a comedy series led by Myers, who plays many characters: not just the lead Ken Scarborough, but also five Pentaverate members, the conspiracy theorist Anthony, Rex Smith (an Alex Jones parody), and more. It's a lot to handle, especially in the scenes where there are several versions of Myers acting with himself. It's a bold gamble that doesn't really pay off; sure, in small doses, it can be charming, but I often found myself wishing Myers had another comedian to collaborate with onscreen. 

Credit where credit's due: Myers remains a good impressionist, for the most part. While not every character here is really effective, I appreciate that some characters have real-life counterparts; for example, his media mogul character Bruce Baldwin is an Australian Conrad Black. Easily the standout though was Ken Scarborough, who is clearly inspired by the real-life local news anchors Myers grew up watching. As someone who regularly tuned into CHEX for my local news in Peterborough, Ontario, I can attest to its accuracy. I almost wish that Myers' Netflix project was simply "'Anchor Man' but small-town Canadian."

There is also a lot of history here, too, for cinephiles and lovers of classic comedy: interjections by Netflix that nod to the old "Monty Python" sketches; the inclusion of the "Ironside" theme song; and even an effective Shrek cameo. Myers is at his best when he has something to (lovingly) mock — that's what made "Austin Powers" so good. Clearly, the comedian has channeled some of that Man of Mystery fondness here, set-dressing much of the Pentaverate's base like a '60s-era James Bond film. The costumes are ridiculous and vivid. There's a great mix of cheap and silly with vibrant and detailed throughout — although leaning more into the more artificial look might have helped amplify some of the comedy. 

By the time "The Pentaverate" episode 6 ended, I was a bit sad to see it go; in just about three hours of runtime, the comedy series had grown on me. Myers takes risks here, including some full-frontal male nudity. There's also a real attempt to "do better" — despite the juvenile, potty humor. The series feels less sexist and more inclusive than his other notable works, and there's a sense that Myers really wants to promote being nice and good. That's not enough to elevate the comedy — there are so many jokes and gags here that just don't work — but it's a positive sign, regardless. 

...But The Pentaverate proves he needs editing

Ultimately, "The Pentaverate" struggles under the weight of its main talent. Myers needs an editor: he is a funny man, and is capable of writing a clever, witty line, but he also returns too frequently to the same bits, many of which don't work in 2022. Today's audience probably doesn't think a Sasquatch pooping is funny, and definitely not enough for that to be a repeated visual gag. 

A lot of the sexual wordplay and jokes land like a cold, wet fish — at times, ruining a scene. One particular gag sees a profanity-laced exchange replayed with Netflix having removed the swearing, which results in the dialogue sounding overtly sexual. Is it funny? No, and neither was the original version with the profanity either. But, as a gag, I think it was a fun original idea, and perhaps with a little more workshopping, it could have been developed into a hilarious bit. 

It's impossible to really know what happened behind the scenes with "The Pentaverate." Myers had the assistance of experienced comedy writers Ed Dyson and Roger Drew for the teleplays — but having the same three people writing all six episodes of a comedy miniseries is not that common. Usually, there's a whole team. Just look at "Russian Doll" — yes, very funny comedians Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler wrote some of the episodes, but also people like Allison Silverman and Zakiyyah Alexander. 

"The Pentaverate" is now streaming on Netflix.