'Huge in France': TV Review

The laughs are mostly lost in translation.
4/12/2019

Gad Elmaleh is huge in France. He isn't huge in the U.S. His so-so, tonally confusing new 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'-esque Netflix comedy probably won't change that.

When Netflix's new comedy Huge in France is trying to be funny, it isn't very funny. When Huge in France is trying to be serious, it's occasionally quite funny, which isn't an insult because it's largely intentional. Even when it's amusingly unamusing, however, Huge in France still isn't quite good enough to justify further investment in what is yet another real-comic-as-semi-dramatic-version-of-themselves series that's less Curb Your Enthusiasm and more Dice meets Really Rob.

As is always a good sign, the premise and plot of Huge in France can be summarized without straying from the title.

Gad Elmaleh is huge in France. Trust me, he is. The Daily Show did a segment on him a couple years ago, and that's the reason I know who Gad Elmaleh is, because in the U.S., Gad Elmaleh is not especially huge.

Elmaleh and co-creators Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul of The Grinder have very slightly expanded on the title, I guess. Gad is so huge that he's known as the Ray Romano of France. He used to be known as the Jerry Seinfeld of France, but he had to change the comparison. At some point, Gad fathered a child with Vivian (Erinn Hayes), a reasonably successful author and social media presence, and that child (Jordan Ver Hoeve's Luke) has grown into a pouting, aspiring teen model who wants nothing to do with his real father. Luke is uninterested in Gad in part because he idolizes his stepfather Jason Alan Ross (Matthew Del Negro), an actor-turned-model or model-turned-actor-turned-unemployed or something. Tired of his life of sold-out concerts and meaningless sexual encounters, Gad decides to come to Los Angeles to patch up his relationship with his kid and he's shocked to discover that while he's huge in France, he's not huge in the U.S.

Do I need to explain things any further? Gad gets to the U.S. and he's confused that there isn't a VIP line at the airport and perplexed that he can't just get Fox's casting department on the phone and flummoxed that American stand-up comics aren't aware of his reputation. The answer to these mysteries is that Gad is huge in France, but not in the U.S.

If you're curious as to how or why Gad is huge in France, Huge in France absents itself from that debate, and I legitimately haven't the faintest idea if this is something Mogel, Paul and Elmaleh have chosen to do intentionally. There's an approach where you show Gad trying to be funny in the same way he's always been funny in France and failing, illustrating how different cultures approach comedy in general and stand-up in specific. There's an approach where Gad tries to be funny and we actually discover that aspects of humor are universal and it turns out that he might be huge in the U.S. if he were given the chance. Instead, Gad arrives in the U.S. to find purpose in his life, not to find professional success and so, without saying it, he's decided not to be the least bit funny regardless of the circumstance? Punchlines surrounding Gad are limited to repeatedly showing a trailer for one of his comedy specials, entering rooms with the announcement, "C'est Gad" (like a dozen times) and prefacing obscenities with a halting "How you say..." even though his English is perfect.

There are humorous beats that Mogel and Paul, directors of every episode, can mine from their own Hollywood experiences, with Fox as their most frequent target because it was home to their swiftly canceled Grinder and Allen Gregory. There's a gag involving posters from other Fox shows that made me laugh hard. It's not quite as savage as some of the better moments on The Grinder, but if you're the sort of TV obsessive who likes jokes about how a TV show called Rosewood once existed on Fox and even aired two seasons, Huge in France has you covered. Otherwise, there isn't much here because there isn't much reason for Gad to be in Los Angeles at all and nothing he's doing in L.A. is all that interesting or purposeful. Like, I want to ask how and why Gad got hooked up with Scott Keiji Takeda's Brian as his assistant, but I don't know if I care to know the answer after four of eight season-one episodes.

The not-funniness of the storyline that ought to be the show's spine is so aggressive that it must be pointed, but if that's the case I don't understand it. Is it a critique of the French for having a lame sense of humor? Of me for not thinking Gad is funny even though the show is barely trying to make that case? Is there a subversive point insufficiently being made about how fame is good, but money is better? Dunno.

I'm more comfortable with the intent of the side of the story featuring Vivian, Jason Alan Ross (his name is best expressed in full) and Luke, in which Luke's modeling aspirations, including his craving for pec implants, are treated with operatic seriousness, shot almost like a Sirk-ian melodrama wedged in the middle of flat, cheap-looking footage of Gad's meandering around L.A. Jason Alan Ross' dedication to Method acting and Vivian's obsession with pregnancy are the parts of Huge in France that made me chuckle most, parts that had absolutely nothing to do with Gad Elmaleh. Del Negro, in particular, commits to the life-and-death stakes surrounding these implants with a fervor I found quite admirable. Vivian's mania is what keeps this from being another wild waste of Hayes' gifts, while still not being close to full utilization.

A busy parade of guest stars includes Seinfeld, Chris D'Elia and Tyson Beckford. None make Huge in France mandatory viewing. Nothing here really does. At least Gad Elmaleh will always have Paris. Because he's huge there. Not here. This probably won't change that.

Cast: Gad Elmaleh, Erinn Hayes, Scott Keiji Takeda, Jordan Ver Hoeve, Matthew Del Negro
Creators: Gad Elmaleh, Andy Mogel and Jarrad Paul
Directors: Andy Mogel and Jarrad Paul
Premieres: Friday (Netflix)