Thursdays at 10:30 p.m.


3 out of 5 Stars

You have to hand it to them — FX is really embracing its “there is no box” campaign and has become the undisputed champion of alternative television. It started with a lineup of dramas known for defying convention and sparking controversy, like fan-favorite “The Shield” and Denis Leary’s “Rescue Me.” Now, by moving “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to the forefront of its advertising push and debuting “Testees” after it on Thursday nights, FX seems poised to become the authority on oddball humor as well.

The fact that “Testees” follows “It’s Always Sunny” each Thursday is no surprise, as FX is looking to strengthen its hold on an audience base that appreciates this particularly refreshing brand of comedy. Much like “Sunny,” the show it will play second fiddle to, “Testees” sports a cast of characters who are grungy, dimwitted and not in the least way heroic. But while this core similarity remains ever-present, the creativity of the concept behind “Testees” gives it an identity of its own and makes it immune to charges of being a “Sunny” rip-off.

“Testees” follows the lives of two roommates, Ron and Peter, who are played by newcomers Jeff Kassel and Steve Markle respectively. These fully-grown yet childlike men can only be described as lovably pathetic. They have no jobs, their apartment is in shambles and their sole source of income is volunteering as test subjects at a nearby lab known as Testico.

Individual episodes of “Testees” begin with Ron and Peter at Testico where they are given some mildly scary drug or undergo some type of bizarre, but always reversible, surgery — like a temporary sex-change. The remaining time is then devoted to how the two deal with the screwy side effects of whatever strange experiment they agreed to take part in. “Testees” is hardly realistic, but then again it doesn’t pretend to be, and the show’s weird fantasy storytelling format is easy to embrace once anything is considered fair game. Things like men being impregnated via fertility pill up the anus are entirely plausible in the context of the show. So far “Testees” shows no indication that it will break away from this no-holds-barred formula anytime soon — and it shouldn’t since this is what differentiates “Testees” from other shows currently dominating television.

“Testees” is also attractive because it offers a set of unconventional main characters. Those who feel suffocated by the grip of gossip girls and high society can breathe again after looking at the shithole that is Ron and Peter’s apartment. They give off a feel comparable to Vince Vaughn’s character in “Dodgeball” — specifically, the brush-your-teeth-with-chocolate-milk type. We feel at home with these dirty, poor schlubs, even if we would never let ourselves live like that.

“Testees” is proof that FX is no longer fooling around — they want to become a serious comedic player on Thursdays and their formidable one-two punch certainly makes them a favorite. And while you don’t have to be a complete weirdo to enjoy the unique offbeat humor of these two shows, it certainly helps.

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