In some ways, it’s a miracle that the strange clown (or “cloon”)-based comedy Baskets was allowed to exist for four seasons. I’m grateful for what we had, and yet, Baskets is also the kind of show that could have gone on forever. After a wonderful pilot that gave way to a muddled first season, the show really came into its own once it found its sweetness. Much of that came from the increased presence of Christine Baskets (Louie Anderson), one of TV’s most memorable characters thanks to Anderson’s completely earnest portrayal.
But the show (gorgeously directed in full by Jonathan Krisel) has always been primarily about Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis) and to a much lesser extent his twin brother Dale. Chip’s inflated sense of self was initially played up in a way that made investing in his character difficult, but as he became more childlike and open, his more outrageous qualities were transferred increasingly onto Dale. Dale has always gone his own way, and initially had it more together (he was married, had children, owned his own business, etc), and though he went through a crisis and ended up more or less as a trailer park prepper, he was still fully in control of his destiny. The same has never been true for Chip, the wanderer, always seeking a place for himself but never quite finding it.
That desire to grow up and make something of himself became a driving factor in this fourth and final season, which saw Chip buying a condo (with the help of his mother), and even becoming CEO of the rodeo (with Christine’s blessing). Christine does continue to dominate Chip’s life in many ways, but her move to Denver with Ken in the finale could change how Chip makes decisions moving forward. And yet, him selling his condo to give the money to Tammy and essentially paying her to do work at her house while she cuts him off from his friends was a pretty poor decision. Nevertheless, Martha, Dale, and even Penelope came through in the end to help him out (in, of course, hilarious fashion). Despite his foibles, Chip has been blessed with good family and friends.
That friendship with Martha (Martha Kelly) is another one that got a sweet moment in this final episode. She was willing to kick him out two minutes into his visit so she could keep watching Judge Joe Brown, but instead he just joined her. And while that relationship hasn’t changed significantly, the symbolic act of Martha’s cast coming off (because of the stray bullet from Chip’s intervention) does somehow feel significant for them both moving forward.
But the real moment of catharsis came between Chip and Christine, and in talking about his late father. Christine admits that maybe she was trying to protect her sons after her husband’s death, and maybe a big part of that was just making herself feel better. But as Christine has come into her own and developed her relationship with Ken, it has allowed Chip and Dale to forge their own paths as well. Where that leads is uncertain—neither Chip nor Dale end the series with much of a plan for the future—but for once there is palpable hope.
The final Baskets episodes were also full of comedic gems, of course, including Dale bringing a switchblade into the statehouse, Christine going toe-to-toe with Tammy, the botched exfiltration of Chip, and even such wonderfully funny lines like when Martha suggests that Christine look for a winter coat at Burlington Coat Factory. “I think they are known for their coats?” she deadpans as only she can. But the episodes were really marked by Chip’s attempts to finally make something of himself. After starting to pull things together as CEO of the rodeo, that was suddenly taken from him as Christine decided to sell the land to the state for the Bullet Train. It wasn’t the job Chip had ever really wanted, but it was as close as he could get to clowning, his true love. As he tells his mother:
“I’m not a boy. I’m a grownup. I’m a clown, and when I clown sometimes I fall and slip on a banana. And I get back up and step on a rake, and it hits me in the face. And I get up again just like I do as a grownup. I just want you to treat me like an adult.”
As Penelope notes, and as we’ve seen throughout the series, Chip is always a clown, whether he’s trying to be or not. Though he may have a grandiose vision of wanting to bring the French art of clooning to Bakersfield, or anywhere really, he lives his life in a way that accidentally charms others (and often irritates them—just like a clown). Over and over again, the lesson for Chip is that if he just embraces who he is and interacts with folks with sincerity, he’ll always win.
There aren’t many shows that focus on regular, Costco-loving people going through familiar things in such extraordinarily quirky ways quite like Baskets did, and its silly, uplifting, frustrating, and charming presence will certainly be missed. As for Chip, Christine, and the rest, the future looks bright. For now, peace out!
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV