Sociopathic behavior makes for great comedy, doesn’t it? That’s what we’ve learned from TV shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Fawlty Towers and films like Aaltra. We love to watch people with no moral compass and a tendency towards selfish and sometimes violent behavior because they are doing and saying the things we can’t.
I wasn’t entirely convinced that Jack, Alex Anfanger’s character on Big Time was following in that tradition until tonight’s episode. Here’s a guy with a single-minded desire to become a famous director and anyone who isn’t on board is either tossed aside or violently attacked. Del falls in love with a lovely lady? Doesn’t matter; he wasn’t there to help film Jack’s next great epic so he’s out of the picture. And when Ben calls him “a lousy worthless hack” over Thanksgiving dinner, that’s when the plates start flying and literal knives come out. Jack is a goldmine of delusion and fury of a sort that hasn’t been seen in a comedy series in some time.
All of this behavior comes pouring out of Jack due to the fallout from losing, well, everyone on his production crew. Ben is off to try to be a grownup, with a job and an apartment. Del is wrapped up in his relationship. And his other assistant, a pre-teen named Petey, practically begs Jack to forget his dream and “wake up.” That may lead the wannabe filmmaker to a job blurring out the faces in a dude’s toilet cam videos, but he finds another vein of disgust and anger…once he sees his brother’s face in one of the clips, scrubbing a toilet at a local porn movie house.
What each episode keeps reminding us is that there’s almost no one to root for in this story. You don’t want Jack to make it as a filmmaker because he’s both talentless and crazy. You maybe empathize with the puppy-ish demeanor of Ben, but he’s also easily manipulated and a little bonkers in his own right. The only person that it feels right to feel anything for is sweet little Del. At the rate this show is going, though, I’m thinking that a dark side to this character that has yet to be revealed.
Elsewhere on Big Time this week, we finally get some action in the story of Cuba Gooding, Jr. Held hostage by a big time drug dealer, his story takes a turn much like Theon Greyjoy’s in Game Of Thrones: he’s tortured, has an appendage cut off (only a finger, thankfully), and is turned meek and pliable. That way when his captor sends him off on a mission to clear his debts, he’s ready. He just insists that he needs some help…which is when Ben and Jack get kidnapped and thrown into a windowless van.
There’s a little bit more going on with the FBI investigation, but that was only interesting insofar as it gave a chance for the director and writer of the episode to present outlandish hypothetical situations to explain away Harvey Scoles’ death including an angry Stephen Tobolowsky bursting into the hotel room and screaming, “You fucked my wife, and now you’re going to fuck my gun!” Any show willing to present that to the world has my lifelong respect.
But as I’m sure I’ve emphasized already in these reviews, Big Time already has my respect and admiration because, unlike other episodic series (comedy or drama), I have no clue where this story is headed. They’ve proven willing to dispense with characters at random and have everyone in the show do horrible, unseemly things to themselves and others. It truly feels like anything is possible with this show, and I can’t wait to see what these folks cook up next.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.