Big Time In Hollywood FL: “Art Imitates Death”

Comedy Reviews Hollywood
Big Time In Hollywood FL: “Art Imitates Death”

The final episode of Big Time’s inaugural season was everything they have spent the last nine weeks promising it would be. Remorselessly violent. Unabashedly over the top. Wickedly funny.

It also ended pretty much as you would have anticipated if you’ve watched the rest of this first season: with everyone but Jack, Ben, their parents, and Del dying in a massive shootout on the set of Monkey Largo. Oh, Rico the chimp and Cuba Gooding Jr. make it out alive too. Everyone else, though, gets gunned down. Drug dealers, cops, extras…everyone. As it was in the beginning when Jimmy Staats got filled full of bullets, this episode spared almost no one. Not even Keith David.

Also true to form, Alex Anfanger and Dan Schmipf played with every tired trope from action movies of the last 30 years. Some were played somewhat straight like letting us know early on that Malloy (Keith David’s character) was doomed by having him make a weepy phone call to his daughter. Writers don’t give you the big weepy conversation with family if you’re not going to bite it soon after. They also foreshadowed the death of a hapless extra by having him jump into the mix, bugging Jack for a line of dialogue in the big final scene. He was like the redshirted cannon fodder in the original run of Star Trek. Only funnier.

Mostly, the two writers had some satirical fun with these familiar scenes. The boys make their big drive to the showdown in Jack’s beat to shit Volvo, but the car is filmed like it’s a Maserati, right down to the dramatic shots of the dangling side view mirror and caved in windshield. During the big shootout, Ben tries to take a bullet for his brother, jumping between Jack and the drug kingpin Delgado only to quickly fly right past and land on the ground well before a shot is fired. And, of course, Jack is saved from a shotgun blast in the gut by someone putting a bullet in Delgado’s back at the last second. Cut to Rico, swinging a loaded gun around, which the chimp uses to accidentally kill off Malloy. I can think of no better way to end the big scene than with a dumb murder like that.

Was there a lesson to be learned from all of this insanity? According to Jack and Ben, it was that, against all odds, they were pursuing their dream, and they were doing it together. A ridiculous sentiment but one that fit in perfectly to the mindset of this show. For us folks in the real world, it’s that Comedy Central needs to take chances on shows like Big Time. Every other kind of TV comedy is being accounted for in some form or other, from talk show parodies to socio-political sketch work to formulaic sitcoms. If a network like this hopes to compete with what premium channels like HBO or streaming services like Netflix and Yahoo! Screen have to offer, they need to look far beyond the tried-and-true.

Big Time had its glaring flaws, primarily in the overuse of recognizable character actors either playing buffoonish versions of themselves (Cuba Gooding Jr. and Jason Alexander) or jumping into the fray of these broad figures that Anfanger and Schimpf created (Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Madsen, etc.). And after a while, using Del as a whipping boy got to be as wearisome as Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais constantly abusing Karl Pilkington.

These, though, are the marks of a fledgling sitcom in its first season. Hopefully, if a second season is to happen, they’ll find a way to move beyond such attention getting moves and tiresome verbal abuse of a simpleton character. Because the core of Big Time is so, so good and now that they’ve wrapped up this impressive storyline, they can take the show quite literally anywhere they want to. Wherever that may be, I’ll be waiting for them.

Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

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