Andy Samberg stands alone, mostly, in the comedy universe these days.
With the exception of David Wain (“Wet Hot American Summer”), there really isn’t anyone else comparably invested in the art of the broad parody.
And if there’s one thing Samberg, one third of The Lonely Island and the brains behind many of the most memorable “Saturday Night Live” moments of the past decade, understands, it’s how to compact a lot of big laughs into a tight time frame.
“7 Days in Hell,” a 45-minute HBO mockumentary starring Samberg and Kit Harrington, sends up tennis culture in the exact way anyone familiar with “I’m On a Boat” or “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals” might expect.
It’s not written or directed by Samberg, but it has his style all over it.
The “behind-the-scenes” portrait of an epic tennis match is filled with absurdist moments that are pulled off mostly because the stars imbue them with an enormous amount of conviction. It’s one thing to kill a guy with a tennis ball during a match, as does Samberg’s petulant Aaron Williams, but it’s quite another to then convincingly seem determined to continue playing. Harrington, shifting tone and focus considerably from his “Game of Thrones” norm, is hilarious as the rather dim Charles Poole, showing a real knack for deadpan humor in the way he assiduously describes the sport’s basic rules in an interview or nervously destroys a hotel room while freaking out from the pressure of the weeklong battle.
Tennis has been largely impervious to this sort of attention before despite the fact that the sport — given its aristocratic nature and standards of decorum — is ideal for it. There are plenty of stereotypes to utterly shred.
At the same time, this sort of sports documentary format, with its ridiculous elevation of athletic competition to a place of heightened significance, is ripe for this takedown.
On TV: ‘7 Days in Hell’ airs on Saturday at 10 p.m. on HBO.