At the end of this week’s episode of Big Time, I flashed back to one of the best known scenes from Broadcast News, the small conversation between William Hurt’s handsome but dim character and his talented but troubled counterpart played by Albert Brooks. Glowing with the joy of being in Washington D.C. and working for a major news network, Hurt wonders aloud, “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” To which, Brooks stage whispers, “Keep it to yourself.”
What brought that to mind was watching Ben and Jack in the thralls of finally living out their fantasy of making a movie. A movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. A buddy cop movie starring an Academy Award® winner and a chimp. A movie with a supposed $5 million budget that is actually a ruse to help out a drug kingpin.
At this point, the boys don’t care. They’re content to be draping themselves in pimp gear a la James O’Keefe and throwing money around their parents’ home, strippers in tow. They’re living out their fantasies and they want everyone around to know about it.
I don’t think the writers of Big Time have any lofty goals with the show to try and comment on the human condition. But it’s not hard to find the critique of modern society tucked into the core of each episode. For as much as they were having fun gently mocking the fantasies of Ben and Jack’s parents (mom envisions the boys with successful careers and charming wives, dad just keeps thinking about have a threesome with his wife and their therapist played by former Malcolm In The Middle mom Jane Kaczmarek), there’s also that indigestible pebble of truth in the show that reminds us it’s often the dumbest, most unworthy people in the world that get to see their real life exceed their dreams while the rest of us have to swallow our envy and bitterness.
This episode also proved to have a warmly beating heart somewhere in the depths of its dark outer layers. And of course it’s poor Del, the abused and berated simpleton who follows Ben and Jack around like an eager pup. He almost got away from it all this week, encouraged by his lady love Darla to pack his bags and leave for Orlando with her. Instead, the FBI have roped him into being an informant, and the boys have pulled him back in as their cameraman.
For as goofy and good-hearted as he’s been in the show, Jon Bass, in that scene, was legitimately heartbreaking when, after being grilled by Ben and Jack about his suitcase, looked off into the distance and said, “No, I was not going anywhere.” True to form, the show quickly undercut that genuine moment by having Darla (the great Betsy Sodaro) unleash a torrent of profanity when she realizes she’s been stood up.
I feel like I’m a broken record at this point, singing the praises of this show, week after week. But, at the moment, I can’t see another sitcom going to the weird and dark and outlandish places that Big Time does. It has completely exceeded my expectations, and I refuse to keep it to myself.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.