Essential Episodes: Big Time In Hollywood, FL

big time in hollywood fl essential indexIf there was any justice in the world Big Time In Hollywood, FL would still be on our screens to this day and it is not only proof that there isn’t, but also that God doesn’t exist, or that he or she has fucked off on a very long holiday at the very least, as no decent self respecting deity would allow a show this funny to be cancelled after just one season. Which are strong words, and obviously hyperbole, but I stand by them as it’s a series I love a huge amount.

It begins with an interrogation scene with some painfully on the nose dialogue and some pretty bad acting, and given that you may be wondering why I’m recommending watching it, and why this first episode is essential viewing. The twist is however that we’re watching a film being made, and it’s a low budget homemade affair which is ruined by the two filmmakers’ parents Alan (Stephen Tobolowsky) and Diana (Kathy Baker) arriving home early and opening the garage door, and then chastising them for using the gardener as one of the actors as they’ve repeatedly told them not to do that.

The filmmakers are brothers Jack (series co-creator Alex Anfanger) and Ben (Lenny Jacobson), who are an extreme state of arrested development, still living at home and refusing to grow up despite being in their early thirties. Alan and Diana have had enough though and over dinner inform the two boys that it’s time to move out, which sets up a fantastic running gag where they love their mother to pieces but treat their kind and affectionate father appallingly, going so far as to suggest to their mother that “There’d be so much more space if you just divorced Dad” before Jack falsely accuses their Dad of molesting him.

Diana won’t take shit from the boys though and so they have to try and work out another way to stay at home, before finally deciding that the solution to their problems is to receive “A severance package” from their parents in the form of twenty thousand dollars which they can use to make a film. Their parents won’t of course just give them the money though, so they decide to pretend that Ben has a drugs problem and has to pay the money to a local drug dealer. While doing research at a local AA meeting they meet actor Jimmy (Ben Stiller), and trick him in to thinking he’s part of a Candid Camera style prank show. Jimmy’s a hilariously tremendously hammy actor but still somehow manages to convince Diana and Alan that Ben’s life is in danger, and so they agree to pay him twenty grand as he’s kidnapped Jack and Ben’s friend Del (Jon Bass), but when they arrive at the underground car park to give him the money it’s revealed that Diana’s set up a sting, the DEA are present, and soon Jimmy’s body is lying on the floor with about fifty bullets riddling it, which is if anything an under estimation.

Now you might be annoyed with me for giving away a major plot twist, and I’d not normally do so but this is a very minor event compared to what takes place over the course of the next nine episodes. They’re joyfully crazy affairs too, packed with insane hilarity, and include a recurring role for Cuba Gooding Jnr as a (hopefully) extreme version of himself, as well as appearances from Jason Alexander, Jane Kaczmarek, Beth Dover, Keith David and Michael Madsen which are all a delight and then some. Jason Alexander’s episode is particularly amazing, it was tempting to write about that one for this piece but it’s the second to last episode and I’d have had to reveal far too many things about the series which would have spoilt it for newcomers.

This opening episode is one of the best in a superb run as well, and packed with almost painfully funny moments, the brothers disdain for their father just gets funnier and funnier as the episode goes along, their short film is beautifully amusing in its awfulness, and the professionally produced posters for their previous works (which include “Blind For Life” and “Bad Cops: Worse Cops 2” and “The Land Before Crime”) also made me laugh a great deal. All of the cast are great but Tobolowsky as their relentlessly cheery father, Bass as their rather gullible friend Del, and Stiller as dodgy actor Jimmy especially deserve acclaim for turning in fantastic performances. More than anything it’s the dialogue which shines though, the level of denial the Brothers have about themselves and their films is beautifully funny, and the nonsense they get their actors to say leads to big laughs. Plot wise it’s an impressive beast too, this episode only hints at the craziness that follows but it should give you an idea that this is a show which is happy to do quite, quite mad plot twists, and it carries them off with aplomb.

It’s one of the funniest series that Comedy Central have ever created, and though I wish it was still on the air perhaps it’s better this way, as it features a self contained storyline that ends in an extremely satisfying manner. Creators Alex Anfanger and Dan Schimpf so far have only worked together on the Shark Lord segments of the FX series Cake but I hope they’re given another proper series soon, as with Big Time In Hollywood, FL they’ve proven they are capable of creating some of the best comedy yet made.

★★★★★

Alex Finch.
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