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television review

Dopey fun in ‘Tour de Pharmacy’

Andy Samberg as a cyclist in “Tour de Pharmacy.”John P. Johnson/HBO

“Tour de Pharmacy” is a mockumentary about rampant doping in the Tour de France during the 1982 race. And it is awfully dopey. The never-ending jokes are profane, obvious, ludicrous, repetitive, absurdist, puerile, crass, tasteless, and, of course, totally freaking stupid.

Yeah, I loved it.

The short film, which premieres Saturday at 10 p.m., is only for HBO viewers who fancy a bit of inanity with their Golden Age of TV, especially when it’s stacked with stars such as Andy Samberg, James Marsden, Jeff Goldblum, Dolph Lundgren, Maya Rudolph, Danny Glover, Will Forte, Orlando Bloom, Kevin Bacon, and, as the narrator, Jon Hamm. No one will win anything for this particular HBO project, that is unless the Golden Globes create a new category called Best Monkey Testicles Joke, in which case “Tour de Pharmacy” is a sure bet. The film is also a lock for the Yentl Goof Honors trophy, once that prize has been created.

Created by Samberg and Murray Miller, who has written for “Girls,” “American Dad,” and “King of the Hill,” the comedy focuses on five of the fictional racers, one of whom — Orlando Bloom’s JuJu Peppi — dies early in the film. Basically, Peppi’s heart explodes from too many drugs while he is pedaling, but he continues to glide onward: “No one even knew he was dead for about 12 kilometers,” says sportscaster Joe Buck, playing himself. Furthermore, Peppi was urinating when he left this plane of existence, of which we are given visual evidence. Best Genital Joke? Get on it, MTV Movie & TV Awards.


There’s only one deep cringe joke in the film, which I had to work through in my mind before I could laugh at it, and it’s not the appearance of Mike Tyson getting interviewed. (Here’s a small spoiler, so jump ship now if you don’t want to know.) We repeatedly hear an anonymous cycling expert divulging details about all the doping, his voice processed to be unrecognizable and his image shadowed in a dark room. He’s in the dark, that is, until he gets a text, looks at his phone screen, and his face lights up. It’s Lance Armstrong, the cyclist who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for his own drug use. We see him, even while he’s still talking with a disguised voice. “The last thing I need is to be seen on TV talking about doping again,” he says, after the cameraman assures him he can’t be seen.


Does the ruined hero get to have fun at the expense of the sport that he helped disgrace? The joke is on him, as his anonymity is repeatedly compromised, but still, it’s a little like seeing Anthony Weiner in a comedy about sexting. It doesn’t sit quite right. Too soon? I guess that’s part of the tackiness that distinguishes “Tour de Pharmacy” and makes it a shoo-in for the Nobel Sleaze Prize, once it has been created.


Starring: Andy Samberg, James Marsden, Jeff Goldblum, Dolph Lundgren, Freddie Highmore, Julia Ormond, Maya Rudolph, Danny Glover, Daveed Diggs, Mike Tyson, Will Forte, John Cena, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Orlando Bloom, Kevin Bacon, Phylicia Rashad, Jon Hamm.


Saturday night, 10-10:50

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.