With Marcel The Shell, Dean Fleischer-Camp and his then-wife, comedian Jenny Slate, turned a silly-yet-precocious carapace into a viral sensation which helped make Slate a household name. David (subtitled Story Of David) may not find similar crossover success, even among fans of its star Nathan Fielder, the Canadian behind Comedy Central's hit Nathan For You. But the five-episode series is a powerful, hilarious, and even timely success that deserves your attention.
Fielder plays the titular character, a man whose wife (played by Slate) and plum job have been lost and replaced in his chest with a black rock, made of "bones, shells, [and] spiders you've swallowed in your sleep," as a priest later tells him. In the show's first episode, a psychic says that David must get rid of it in five weeks, or it will take over his body. For the rest of the show, David tries to get better by filling his life with meaning, something he may have lost the ability to do. "When you're young, it seems like there's people everywhere, even when you don't want there to be. But then you get older, and it's like, where did everybody go?" David says to his therapist.
David wanders from interaction to hilariously stilted interaction in a sort of numbed fugue state, his interactions dehumanized to the point where they resemble a conversation between two perfectly realized Siris. But the show's beautiful camerawork doubles as a showcase for Fielder's range, which can come off as much flatter on Nathan For You: here, we see deep confusion and pain as he tries to make sense of his troubles, which rise next to his head as thought bubbles.
Online, the show is being frequently compared to David Lynch (and yes, that analogy is aided by the soundtrack from Will Wiesenfeld a.k.a. Baths, which sounds like waiting room music composed by Angelo Badalamenti). But the myth at David's center is instantly recognizable, the emotional expressiveness of its actors significantly dialed back, and is not so much surreal as unique. Part of what makes David so compelling is the awareness that its title character is just one sad little cosmos in a sea of trillions, searching like the rest of them to escape being defined by our mistakes.