CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
TV Review: Jim Jeffries Creates a Skewed Sitcom in ‘Legit’
CHICAGO – The tradition of the stand-up comedian evolving into a TV comedy sitcom is a long one – from George Burns to Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby to Louis CK. Jim Jeffries is throwing his funny hat into the ring, with the premiere of “Legit,” broadcasting on FX on January 17th at 10:30pm ET/9:30pm CT.
Television Rating: 4.0/5.0
The premise of “Legit” is simple – Jim Jeffries (playing “himself”) wants to get out of the man child world of stand-up comedy and go “legit.” The series begins with a very funny rap on marrying a woman, becoming a Dad, etc. This bit leads into the path of “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” The episodes have one-word titles, like “Dreams” and “Love,” and does have a bit of the pathos of the other FX stand-up series, “Louie,” with a completely different twist. The surface of this series may be one joke, but if the writing and worldview of Jeffries remains at the forefront, this could be a long-running winner.
Two of the major characters are introduced during the opening “legit” rap. Jim (Jim Jeffries) and Steve (Dan Bakkedahl) are roommates, Jim being the comedian of arrested development and Steve a divorced workaday loser. Steve has a brother named Billy (D.J. Qualls) suffering from Muscular Dystrophy, and is in a care center, much to the consternation of Steve and Billy’s mother (Elena Schuber).
Photo credit: FX
In the twist, Billy confesses to Jim that he wants to have sex, so Jim arranges a visit to a Nevada cat house. The pilot episode deals with the discomfort and joy that doing something like that would bring. In upcoming episodes, Billy will become more connected to Steve and Jim, actually moving in with them. Can three wacky middle aged men, one with special needs, room together without driving each other crazy?
Although the jokes rely on the high concept premise – you could probably write ten or so about a handicapped man having sex in a bordello – the underlying message is sweet, and about universal themes. In the “Dreams” episodes, Jeffries delivers a monologue about the power of dreaming about what you want, then actually getting it. The truth of it is essential, and it ties into Billy’s depression about being handicapped. This is the type of subjects that great writing is not afraid to explore, and predicts some great stuff to come.
Jim Jeffries – who co-created the show with Peter O’Fallon – is a scruffy wonder, filled with the think-too-much curse of fine comic minds. Bakkedahl is the perfect straight man, often seen doing laundry (mostly unappreciated) or trying to be the buffer from his nagging mother – who Jeffries loves to tweak. D.J. Qualls as Billy, who was last seen in as a Barney Fife-like cop in “Memphis Beat,” portrays a handicapped man with humor, anger and finally dignity. He is given a large male organ in the pilot, so not all is lost.
Therein may lie the problem for the series, it does rely way too much on sexual humor, and the looser standards of FX practically makes this HBO after dark territory. Two of the three previews dealt with sex as its main theme, but there is light at the end of this tunnel (literally shown in pilot), in which the three roommates will try to co-exist. There is sure to be a mining of Jeffries offbeat comedy, and with the flashes of pathos there is further gold.
It’s amazing that FX is part of the Fox family of networks, which includes Fox News. Everything that Fox News pretends to be for is blasted away on many of the series on FX. Maybe there is more profit in entertaining people than scaring them?