A lot of producers and directors, many of them linked up in some fashion to Judd Apatow or Will Ferrell, have been wrestling with this idea of how to apply the pacing and style of dramatic work to comedies. As far as I can tell, the closest anyone had gotten to that sweet spot was Jody Hill and Danny McBride with their Tarantino/Scorsese homage Observe and Report. But coming up right behind them are Alex Anfanger and Dan Schimpf with Big Time.
Over the course of just two episodes, you can tell that those two have absorbed the beats and mood of the many editions of CSI as well as the dour, spoiled milk spirit of Breaking Bad. As my colleague Garrett Martin pointed out, it’s through the latter lens that this show is really finding its focus. Like Walter White, the decisions and fabrications of Jack and Ben are digging them deeper and deeper into a pit. Or at least forcing Ben to go to rehab for his nonexistent crack cocaine addiction.
This week finds the boys dog paddling through the wake of the big drug bust they unwittingly brought to bear while also holding onto the comforts of their home with white knuckles. Being the man children they are, they aren’t willing to bear responsibility for any of their actions, putting the onus instead on their even dumber friend Del. To push back against the titular intervention that their parents set up, they insist that it was their frequent movie co-star that introduced Ben to crack. They also tell the police that the poor guy was likely raped by Jimmy Staats during his kidnapping. And just as he was willing to humiliate himself for his friends for their half-assed movies, Del refuses to tell the cops anything, even after being examined for sexual assault.
Through it all, the show plays out like a tense, sweaty Michael Bay film. In the interrogation room, the camera buzzes around the table, or stops for intense close ups. And the boys’ pitiful attempt to hijack their uncle’s little boat to escape to Cuba is edited like they are trying to defuse a bomb that threatens to decimate the city. It still feels, and sometimes looks, like low budget filmmaking, but the heart of a summer blockbuster beats strong within Big Time.
As delighted as I am by the look and feel of the show, what keeps me staring hard at the screen is waiting for those little offbeat touches that keep it rooted in comedy. That can be something as simple as Ben and Jack pacing in the snack aisle of the grocery store where Del works as a greeter, each one stuffing a marshmallow or a chip in their mouth as they furiously try to plot out their next move. Or their decision to bring pool toys with them as they try to escape to Cuba. Those little things prove that Anfanger, Schimpf, and their whole team are paying attention to every last detail of this show because they matter as much as the big stuff. Maybe that makes them more like Wes Anderson than Scorsese. Either way, these guys are setting themselves up for a much bigger stage for the future and I can’t wait to see what they come up with they get called up to the major leagues.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.