The Life & Times of Tim

Lesson #43: There is never a good explanation for why a hooker is on your couch.

You know you’re watching a great TV show when the main character covers for his boss’ dog by pretending that he was the one who pooped beside the elevator, and bit his co-worker on the ankle, and it earns him the respect and fear of his peers. There’s just no getting around it: it’s a sure-fire way to making a show really, really excellent.

It’s all part of HBO’s slow rise to Domination of Comedy. They’ve really cornered the market on awkward, straight-faced sitcoms. It started with the awesome force of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, followed up with the worldwide phenomenon of Flight of the Conchords, and now this: The Life & Times of Tim. There’s no way of describing why this show works – I certainly wasn’t enamoured with it at first. But after ten minutes, I was ready to pronounce it one of my favourite shows ever. It’s just that funny. And look! There’s a video beneath the cut, dear.

It’s comedy, with the deadest of pans. Tim – voiced by series creator Steve Dildarian – reacts to everything the same way: with a quiet, understated good nature. Nothing fazes him, nothing makes him raise his voice, nothing makes him stop and consider what he’s doing. He just takes everything in his stride, and only briefly questions the outlandish situations he constantly finds himself in. But the greatest part is that he’s not stupid – he knows a bad idea when he hears one. He’s just too lazy and apathetic to do much of anything to avoid it.

He’s an everyman, an average guy – it’s the situations around him that give the show its character. Some situations Tim finds himself in include: his girlfriend and her parents finding him at home on the sofa with an unpaid hooker; an old man repeatedly slapping him in the face and challenging him to a boxing match; the IT department of his office convincing the boss that Tim is having an affair with his wife; having to take that same boss’ daughter to her prom. And every one of those situations escalates in a glorious fashion: for example, Tim tries to pay off the hooker (and her pimp, Maurice) with meatloaf.

It perfectly illustrates the important difference between wonderful absurdist humour and tired, painful “random” comedy. Where Family Guy – which is a great show, and I love it dearly – will introduce a situation, the immediately cut to a insert making some pop culture reference, Life & Times of Tim introduces a situation, then builds and builds on the situation, taking it into unexpected places, and wringing some excellent comedy out of it. Just like Family Guy, it’s usually very, very silly – actually, scratch “usually”, and replace it with “always” – but it – somewhat paradoxically – comes across as the smarter of the two shows.

I put this down to the low-key nature of the show: where Family Guy is like a big explosion of a committee of comedians’ imaginations, and sometimes loses track of itself because of that, Tim is more like the whimsical thoughts of one man. It’s the TV show equivalent of that thing everybody does: you picture a scenario, then imagine how you might react to it – and then you start imagining funnier reactions, and more absurd situations that might result, and suddenly you’re just pitching punchlines.

Yes, you could say it’s like an animated Curb Your Enthusiasm: that it’s Dildarian using a sitcom to act out all the things he could never do in real life. Hell, Dildarian himself has all but said that.  Dildarian also notes the inspiration of Mike Judge’s work, and the crude animation certainly calls to mind Beavis and Butthead. But if someone came to you, and said “I’m gonna combine Curb Your Enthusiasm and Beavis and Butthead“, would you really say no to that? (And if you would, you have no sense of humour, and you’re probably ugly.)

It’s only on its first series (showing on RTE 2 and Virgin 1 over here – each 30-minute episode contains two separate stories on either side of the ad break), and characterisation is very much a secondary issue for the show, focusing more on the development of the situations rather than the characters, so you have no excuse for not watching at least one episode.

It’s certainly funnier than any episode of The Simpsons of the last decade or so, or any episode of South Park ever. Yes sir.

Tim: You'll want to be him.


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