I’d much prefer to visit any other place than Easttown.
The panda bear is nature’s cutest practical joke. Giant pandas subsist almost entirely on bamboo—a diet so wholly devoid of nutrition that they need to eat for 16 hours a day. They’re not particularly interested in making baby pandas, and when one comes along (perhaps to the great surprise of the panda parents), they’re really hard to keep alive. Pandas stare down the already tattered concept of natural selection and cause it to tremble before their oversized adorability.
This improbable animal is, naturally, a perfect mascot for the dudes of Dude Perfect. (And so we see often see a guy wearing a panda costume onscreen.) It’s not that any of them have a huge yen for bamboo—at least not that I’m aware of. But these five sports-obsessed college friends have turned their improbable trick shots into an improbable online career—and now have parlayed their strange brand of social-media fame into their very own improbable show on CMT.
Dude Perfect—consisting of Tyler Toney, Cody Jones, Garrett Hilbert, and twins Cory and Coby Cotton—rose to fame on YouTube. Like most YouTube stars (and like, I suppose, baby pandas), they began small—Tyler and Cody doing basketball trick shots in the backyard. But their enthusiasm, joy and outsized skill quickly drew a following. Now the Dude Perfect YouTube channel is nearing 9.5 million subscribers, and the guys have honored their fame by never deviated from their basic formula: They perform sports-oriented tricks, poke gentle fun at some silly stereotypes and have an outrageously great time doing it.
Clearly, the folks at CMT saw little reason to tinker with Dude Perfect’s internet success. Sure, maybe celebrities drop by a bit more often on the TV version. But for the most part, the show is still all about Dude Perfect’s genial members ribbing one another, performing feats of athletic magic and playing outrageous games that wouldn’t feel out of place in a college frat house—if the frat house was populated with squeaky-clean brothers who all read their Bibles and went to bed at 9 p.m.
It’s no secret that the Dude Perfect guys are all Christians. They’re surprised by their success as much as anybody, but, as they say on their website, “We believe that nothing happens by accident, that God’s given us this platform for a reason, and that we have an opportunity to make an impact on the lives of countless others all around the globe.” Putting feet to their faith, they’ve turned down all endorsement deals that involved alcoholic products, and while they gladly talked with us here at Plugged In last year, Dude Perfect has left what they call “certain male magazines” out in the cold.
“There are a lot of times when you’ve really got to make some tough decisions, and it’s not always really clear-cut,” Tyler told The Huffington Post. “Sometimes you could look at it and say, ‘Well, we’d be reaching a group of people who don’t really know about Christ.’ And then, other times, the overall concept of it just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t sit right.”
Dude Perfect’s online videos tend to be as clean as they are fun, and the television show is little different. Granted, some of the stunts are not the sort you’d necessarily want your 6-year-old trying at home. Some families will object to some of the celebs who come a-calling. (Even though the show doesn’t try to highlight what might be wrong with them.) And a few times the craziness can come off as just a tad edgy—but edgy in a church youth group sketch sort of way, not at all like an SNL skit. Rarely will viewers hear words harsher than “crap” or “golly.”
“We often get asked about how clean we are and how/why we do our content that way, but it’s not anything we specifically plan out because it’s just a part of who we are—a part of our character and what we believe,” Tyler told Plugged In. “So it doesn’t take any special effort or planning on our part because it’s natural. We think it’s important to have fun when you share your faith because joy is magnetic. People can tell when you are authentically joyful … and when you’re not.”
The Dude Perfect Show does feel planned, of course, in the same way that most modern reality shows are planned. But that planning (consisting of a subplot or two that builds to a stunt-filled finale) doesn’t seem to be dampening the perfect joy and frivolity these dudes always share. And that makes this small corner of the television landscape more than just (ahem) bear-able. It’s one of the rare family-friendly gems.
The Dude Perfect crew make plans to connect with country music singer Luke Bryan for a wild archery contest. But before that happens, the guys have to coach their star-struck intern, Chad, on the finer points of interacting with a celebrity. Also, they try to baby-proof their place of business (which is really a huge, tricked out man cave) for Garrett’s infant son.
Tyler impersonates a Luke Bryan performance, shaking his rear to the camera. And the name of one of Luke’s songs, “Country Girl (Shake It for Me),” is mentioned. When Luke and Chad finally meet, Luke kids Chad by calling him “sugar” and “honeybunch.”
In trying to prove to Garrett and his wife that the Dude Perfect headquarters are perfectly safe, Tyler totes around a fragile baby doll. When the doll is crushed and its head falls off as Tyler catches a football, Tyler calls it a “worst-case scenario.” During the main contest (wherein Luke and the Dude Perfect guys chase each other around on go-karts while trying to shoot tethered balloons with marshmallow-tipped arrows), we hear someone say “crap” a few times. “God, “gosh” and “golly” are also said a time or two each.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
I’d much prefer to visit any other place than Easttown.
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