Adam Ruins Everything offers a simple exchange: your happy illusions for the mere satisfaction that you now know the truth. Take one of high-haired host Adam Conover’s red pills, and you’ll learn that a lot of the things we value are either bullshit (diamonds, Tom’s Shoes, bad breath) or exist solely to cover up bullshit (tipping, seafood fraud, the dangers of herpes). Armed with an irrepressible enthusiasm for facts and a bracing skepticism of corporate advertising, the truTV series finds Conover positioning himself as Don Draper’s nemesis — and the comedian winning.
Even more than accuracy, though, Adam Ruins Everything’s secret weapon is its snappy wit. Actual LOLs might be rare, though I did burst out laughing when an old-timey adman in black-and-white embraces his “beautiful, beautiful, shame money” as he preys on hygiene insecurities to sell mouthwash, and when generations of non-Jewish fathers inadvertently continue the tradition of circumcision by asking the question “His should look like mine, right?” Begun as a CollegeHumor series — and thus aware that it’s gotta battle for eyeballs against everything else on the internet — the educational comedy hits that sweet spot of being engagingly deep while never overestimating our attention spans.
Playing a nattering killjoy, Conover is actually a perfect instructor: earnest, empathetic, and able to imbue the occasionally dry monologue with buoyant charisma. Eager to extend a solution when he can (give blood anytime but after a major catastrophe) and a sincere proposal for optimism when he can’t (you’ve gotta vote, even if gerrymandering probably made many of your down-ballot votes useless for the next decade), Conover knows that facts can be bummers — but that they’re also the first step toward empowerment and change.
Season 2 returns on Tuesday, August 23, with its biggest celebrity guest yet. An episode about Hollywood myths — how did Conover and his writers ever narrow the list down to just three? — debunks red-carpet “style” with Rachel Bloom, then exposes the lies buttressing award shows, movie ratings, and reality shows. Yeah, I know that you know that The Bachelor isn’t real, but the details from a former Bridezilla producer will surprise even the most loyal UnReal viewer. The following two episodes made available to critics — devoted to football and weddings, respectively (in which Conover reveals that brides wearing white dresses has more to do with Queen Victoria than virginity) — are just as impressively researched, written, framed, performed, and edited for maximum edutainment.
Adam Ruins Everything might be someone’s idea of appointment viewing, but it’s actually perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons when you want to loaf in front of the TV or YouTube for a few hours, but don’t want to feel like you’re wasting your life. That’s where Season 1’s 12 episodes — with its takes on charity, sex, restaurants, security, forensic science, and several other disparate topics — can make for a smart, relaxing, and amusing weekend that’ll make you see the world a little differently. We live in a golden age of information, with more knowledge at our fingertips than our minds can absorb in a lifetime. Conover might joke that he’s ruining everything, but we should applaud him for wading through all that data and serving us the gems on a spiffy platter.