John Legend looks into the camera and tells the tale of a show “unlike anything else on TV, except for several other TV shows.” A long list begins scrolling, starting with “Soul Train” and “Solid Gold” and moving on to … “The Crown” (Season 1).
The fake promo is part of the wickedly funny mockumentary series “Sherman’s Showcase” (10 p.m. Wednesdays on IFC). That’s also the title of the “black music/dance/entertainment” program that’s the subject of the spoof. And, of course, it has practically nothing in common with “The Crown” (although there is commentary in a plummy British accent from actual TV producer Nigel Lythgoe).
The eight-episode first season, which premiered last week, is co-produced by Legend and was created by Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle, Emmy-nominated writers for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Salahuddin plays Sherman McDaniels, host of the imaginary “Showcase” show. He has a glittery blazer for every occasion — and a mean streak. During a tele-dance-a-thon to fight cancer (Slogan: “Ain’t gonna stop dancin’ until there’s no more cancer in the world”), McDaniels orders a woman called Pepper Spraye to live up to her name when a dancer falls asleep.
The format is a bit of a hodgepodge, yet pretty consistently funny. To give it that mockumentary feel, Legend, Lythgoe and others (including a dancing robot) speak as talking heads about the dance show’s history since its 1972 launch. But the bulk of each episode consists of segments from the imaginary show.
There are music and dance clips (including one in which the dancers share their secret thoughts, like, “Hey, you stole my move, sucker.”) And real-life celebs like Ne-Yo, Common, Ray Parker Jr. and Tiffany Haddish drop by. Haddish inexplicably yet enthusiastically slurps a bowl of soup and proclaims, “Damn, this is some good-ass soup.”
Perhaps the sharpest and funniest bits are outrageous “classic commercials.” In an ad for BlackPeopleMeet.com, a young man is gobsmacked to see that his sister’s “new man” is Frederick Douglass. “You’re the most impressive person she’s ever gone out with,” he says, though when he mentions that his sister has three kids, Douglass promptly disappears.
Salahuddin and Riddle have said the skits sprang from ideas they had for Fallon that were “too edgy for that audience.” Which means Legend wasn’t exactly lying when he said “Sherman’s Showcase” is like nothing else you’ll see on TV.