Last week, I talked about how frustrating it can be for all of us to watch unworthy people get the rewards in life, and how funny it can be to watch people’s reach exceeding their grasp. Well, all it took was one week for that to come crashing to a head on Big Time.
The two loveable dunderheads at the heart of the show, Ben and Jack, are making a movie. A really shitty movie with terrible CGI, a convoluted plot, and the worst acting around. And they’ve slapped their names all over it, proudly, while throwing Cuba Gooding Jr.’s name into the credits as an afterthought. As every fan of The Room knows, few things are funnier than watching someone’s incompetence unfurl before you.
Equally funny is watching untalented people bloviate and puff themselves up. There was plenty of time for that with the boys engaging in a lifestyle show interview about their feature film, patting themselves on the back, and then weepily discussing the influence of their father…who they reveal is a retired bodybuilder who now does cancer research. If that weren’t bad enough, they hired a musclebound actor to play this version of their dad.
That’s why we don’t feel terribly bad when things start to go south for the guys. They find out Del is an informant, screw up their attempt to get information from the feds (they put a wire on their simpleton buddy…under a white t-shirt…that he wears into the pouring rain…) and when they hear the word “Rico,” they immediately assume their primate film star is also snitching them out. Add to my list of funny things, two grown men weeping as they attempt to pour gasoline all over chimpanzee in the hopes of snuffing it out (don’t worry, animal lovers; Rico is fine through this whole thing).
Even funnier is the plight of Alan, Ben and Jack’s dad. Incensed by his sons hiring an actor to stand-in for him, he is encouraged by his therapist to finally start standing up for himself. He chooses to do so with a jerk who cuts in line at a restaurant and winds up in the parking lot fighting this elderly gent in one of the most awkward and hilarious confrontations ever…and then in jail for his trouble.
Stephen Tobolowsky is such an inspired casting choice for this part, and not only because of his nebbish appearance. He’s also as fearless as they come, throwing himself into the physical comedy and surrealist touches of the show. And he does the adorable naive thing so very well, like asking his cellmates, “So, what are you fellas in here for?”
As funny as it was, this wasn’t the strongest episode of Big Time so far as it felt like a small pause in the show’s forward momentum. They do fine pushing the plot along with Alan finding out that the boys are in a lot of trouble, and Cuba learning that the feds are on to him and his lady drug dealer associate. But I wasn’t as surprised and energized by the show as I usually am. Still, with the way the 2015 TV comedy season has been going, I’d take a slightly disappointing episode of Big Time over the best episode of some of the other sitcom dreck out there any time.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.