‘The Jim Gaffigan Show’: TV Review
Stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan headlines TVLand’s too-genteel sitcom about stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan.
He lives in New York City. He does stand-up comedy. He has kids. He gets himself into kooky situations. Jim Gaffigan takes what’s worked before (most recently for Louis C.K. and his multi-hyphenate F/X effort Louie) and does ... very little that’s new. That’s not necessarily a problem, especially for those viewers looking for something much less abrasive than C.K. often provides. But based on the one episode (the second) made available prior to the premiere, and despite a lengthy gestation period, The Jim Gaffigan Show doesn’t especially distinguish itself within its familiar template.
Like its affable leading man, the series is an overall genial affair. Jim is a happily married man, with an adoring wife (Ashley Williams), an adorably energetic brood, two best friends — one gay (Michael Ian Black), one straight (Adam Goldberg) — and a deep love of all things edible. He and his buds constantly kid each other with such of-the-moment insults as, “You look like every bad guy on Downton Abbey” and ponder deep matters like whether the barista at the local coffee shop is actually Macaulay Culkin. (The former child star does indeed make a wink-wink appearance.)
The episode sent out for review is primarily concerned with Jim’s efforts to deliver an application letter for one of his children to a prestigious Catholic elementary school. Suffice to say things don’t go as planned, and the application gets mixed up with both a birth certificate and a drawing one of Jim’s other kids made (in total innocence) of his father’s penis.
There’s also a running gag involving a heckler who Jim is accused of insulting by calling her a “whore" — though that runs as counter to his clean onstage act as it does to the persona Gaffigan is cultivating for the series. Anytime things threaten to turn blue, Gaffigan acts befuddled, gently throwing up his hands as if to say, “This isn’t me, it's them.” He’s comfortable in his own lackadaisical skin; it’s the world around him that’s on edge.
Gaffigan’s good-naturedness is pleasant, if not particularly interesting. He’s like the uncle you look forward to seeing over the holidays ... and just then. There are only so many vegan cupcake jokes one can take, and only so many generally contented characters one can watch before craving a raise in dramatic stakes. Even when that anatomically correct drawing ends up gracing the front page of the bulletin at the church Jim attends, his embarrassment doesn’t cut deep. It’s just a silly punchline that feels forced instead of inspired, routine rather than revelatory.
Perhaps the series will find its voice as it goes on. (Eleven episodes have been ordered in total.) The performances are there: Gaffigan has a sweet rapport with Williams and the young actors playing his children, while both Black and Goldberg make for fun sparring partners. And there are a number of situations to be wrung out of an inherently chipper man navigating present-day New York City and its tendencies toward gentrified angst and anxiety.