“In the last week, I’ve gotten a man killed, lied to the police, tried to flee the country, checked myself into rehab, was almost raped and then pumped full of lithium, broke into some random family’s house and tortured some schoolteacher, was kidnapped and then had a gun shot into my mouth, which, by the way was one chamber from killing me!”
“So it’s been a bad week…”
I can think of no better summation for what has transpired over the first five episodes of Big Time In Hollywood, FL than Ben’s frustrated and angry rant about what his pushy and manipulative brother has gotten him into. That Jack’s response was the huge understatement that followed his outburst also says everything you need to know about how delusional this hyperactive wannabe filmmaker has been through it all.
Five episodes in, and I’m still marveling at the sheer chutzpah of this show. Though they have been blessed with some character actor ringers that might otherwise be used to boost up potential viewership, the writers of Big Time have been dispensing with them one after the other: Ben Stiller gets mowed down in the first episode, Cuba Gooding Jr. gets snapped up by drug dealers, and Michael Madsen fires a bullet into his skull in a sleazy hotel room while sitting between the two series leads. He is quickly replaced by Keith David, who shows up in a Midnight Run/Yaphet Kotto/Alonzo Mosely-style FBI role at the episode’s end, but it speaks to the daring streak that the creators of this show have in them.
Of all the actors listed above, I think the one I’m going to miss the most is Madsen. His private investigator Harvey Scoles was the best representation of this show’s chief theme: how people who fancy themselves worldly actually react when the shit goes down.
Ben and Jack (and by extension Del) feel like they’ve watched enough movies to understand how the world works, especially on the “wrong side of the tracks.” But when confronted with these situations of their own creation, they stumble and scream and pratfall over everything as they try to reconcile with it. So, after being interrogated by Scoles and then plied with whiskey…and then watching their would-be captor shoot himself…they don’t handle it well at all.
Del tries to give the obviously dead body mouth-to-mouth (“I’m CPR certified,” he blubbers as Jack smacks him around). Their attempts to clean up evidence results in Ben pouring bleach all over the place. And after they find that the corpse has a huge erection, they construct a ridiculous tableau of porn mags, booze bottles and a shitty suicide note that reads, “I killed myself. Love, Harvey.” Oh, and to try and make it so it seems that his motivation was lust-filled hatred for himself, they send a dick pic to the number in his phone that he’s called most often…which of course is Ben and Jack’s mom.
The writers set everything up for the show to continue including having the boys leave their digital camera behind and having their father call Harvey’s phone to leave an angry message to stay away from his wife, but, you know, they could have just as easily called it quits on this first season with this episode. Especially with an angry Ben storming away from Jack’s car at the end of the half-hour. This opened the door to a number of possibilities for where to take the story of these characters for next season.
Not that I want that, necessarily. I’m all in with this show and very interested to see how they move forward with Ben and Jack and their friends and family all dealing with the seedy underbelly of their hometown. But they’ve already done so much and told such a hilarious and weird and gory story over the course of these five weeks that I’d be completely satisfied if this was the end until next year.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.