The Jim Gaffigan Show Season 1 Episode 1 Review: “Pilot”

The Jim Gaffigan Show Season 1 Episode 1 Review: “Pilot”

The Jim Gaffigan Show

The only thing unpredictable about The Jim Gaffigan Show is its location; after multiple attempts to get the show off the ground at CBS, Jim Gaffigan (along with wife/fellow EP Jeannie) ended up bringing his show to TV Land of all places. However, moving to one of television’s less-lauded homes for sitcoms hasn’t changed the charm of Gaffigan’s show one bit; after three years of development, The Jim Gaffigan Show is exactly the comedy any fan of his stand-up would hope it would be, a heartwarming sitcom that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, choosing instead to take predictable slice-of-life family stories most comedies tell, and offer them with a twist. Rather than conflict, The Jim Gaffigan Show‘s foundation is built on catharsis; while it doesn’t always make for the most exciting comedy, its self-effacing qualities fill an emotional void left by today’s unbelievably selfish, heartless, and sanitized sitcoms on network television.

It’s odd to think that two of the most promising new shows of 2015 air on Lifetime and TV Land; yet here we are with UnREAL (on Lifetime) and The Jim Gaffigan Show, which opens with Jim contemplating a vasectomy after a false pregnancy diagnosis. What resonates in the show’s first twenty minutes – which neatly dispatches with any exposition in the first five minutes, concisely paving the way for the story to grow – is how the series explores its central relationship with this ‘conflict’; when his wife Jeannie (played wonderfully by Ashley Williams, in a much-deserved starring role) points out that he’s probably not going to have the vasectomy, the episode turns into a fun little masculinity play, with Gaffigan going out of his way to try and convince Jeannie that he’s going to have the procedure, herself egging him on by setting up appointments and prodding him along the way.

The rhythms of their relationship are extremely fine-tuned, and because of that, “Pilot” doesn’t have to try and dramatize something that doesn’t end up being a conflict anyway (two seconds alone in the room with the doctor, and Jim’s admitted he has no plans on having the procedure), instead using that time to build the relationship between husband and wife in fun, revealing little ways, like the conversation between Jim and the new priest midway through the episode. Though none of that is “new” material, how the show handles it feels fresh in an odd, retro way. What conflict does come between the two never becomes nasty, or overblown; in the course of 22 minutes, The Jim Gaffigan Show has already established itself as one of the best marriages on television, regardless of channel.

It also helps that the cast is awesome; along with Gaffigan and Williams, Adam Goldberg and Michael Ian Black round out the main cast, who immediately bring to life stories that would become caricatures on other shows. Black as the gay real estate/best friend/former boyfriend of Jeannie is particularly great, avoiding the typical pratfalls that turn characters of the type into exaggerated versions of a Bravo reality star; like the rest of The Jim Gaffigan Show, Black’s character Daniel operates with a certain level of modesty I can appreciate. Rather than forcing itself on the audience with loud, brash jokes and a crappy laugh track, “Pilot” engages in a much more relaxed, confident way – and that small tweak to the typical “every man” family comedy formula is everything to TJGS, a smooth transition of Gaffigan’s material from stand-up to the single-camera setup.

The Jim Gaffigan Show is not a show that’s going to get your attention by being loud or brash; it operates with a much more concise tone, rather than oscillating wildly between conflict and resolution, refusing to adhere to the predictable overwrought emotions of sitcoms, while still operating within the same basic comedic format. Enhanced by the actors Gaffigan surrounds himself with (not to mention the fantastic guest stars that show up in future episodes), The Jim Gaffigan Show is a strong counterpart to the usual family comedy – and 22 of the warmest, most enjoyable minutes I’ve spent watching television in the past week.

[Photo via TV Land]

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