Anytime there’s a multi-part episode of a TV show, reviewing it can be tough. You just don’t know how things turn out until they’ve all aired; will the sum be bigger or smaller than the parts? And when you have a three part episode of TV (coming dangerously close to a movie) that second episode’s often the hardest to judge. There’s just a lot of middle in that episode because you’re pulling from the first episode but holding out any conclusions or climax until the last show. So I was admittedly concerned about watching part two of the episodes No Good Deed for The Jim Gaffigan Show. What if, even if the show was a solid entry, it didn’t progress the story?
So, I thought it was a good time to take advantage of my close proximity to the Astoria comedy club QED (used in this season’s episode The List) which happens to be just a few blocks away from me, which holds free viewing parties (with free food) and Q&As with the cast and crew. Gaffigan’s been there as a guest, as has Christian Finnegan…as it should be considering his wife Kambri Crews owns the place and hosts the weekly events. Finnegan, who I mentioned really liking on the show in his last two appearances, also worked on the show as a script consultant this season, which led to his onscreen role on the show. And in a little preview, Jim’s stand-in, actor James D. Hall (an Astoria local who came to talk about the show this week) has an “acting role” on next week’s show (with dialogue and everything) which Gaffigan surprised him with (no audition necessary) because according to Hall, Jim’s just a good and personable guy. He also gave the audience some behind the scenes tidbits about the season including his favorite guest stars (despite all the comics on the show Zachary Quinto might be the funniest) and their experiences filming in New York (plenty of late nights in the West Village).
But really, QED hosts these events because like a lot of comedies, the shared experience of laughing can make shows that are already good far more fun to watch. And it definitely was fun to watch the show with others who are big fans of the show (and I might add, skew younger than TV Land might even realize). But regardless, part two of No Good Deed is a really fine episode in what has been a stellar season; even if it doesn’t stand alone as an episode.
Part two starts soon after the disintegration of Jim and Dave Marks’ friendship. It should be said, that all season Adam Goldberg has been doing a great job with the character of Dave, playing up the fact that Jim and Dave are the antithesis of one another and embracing the characters unbridled machismo, bringing an alpha male quality to their friendship on full display now that he’s “winning.” If in another world they had made the show about this odd couple friendship, I would have watched that too. And that seems to be what they’re leading up to with this story arc (at least I kind of hope), creating Dave’s TV Land show around their sincere but toxic friendship.
But Dave might shoot himself in the foot before that show can ever happen. He’s thrown Jim overboard to bring on Jim’s new nemesis, John Mulaney…that younger, hipper, cooler comic who notices and compliments Jeannie’s scarf (how dare he!). Any time Jim turns the comedy world into a big high school has always been great, because we can all relate to those moments of immaturity, and this episode really took delight in that idea. When Jim is called to LA for a meeting with Will Ferrell, his anxiety gets so bad he gets a red blotch on his face (kind of like the classic nightmare zit from high school) and fantasizes that Ferrell was ruling the comedy world on the throne of swords (I’m pretty sure he was channeling Joffrey, but I’m not sure). But nothing compared to Jim’s beach fantasy when he hit it off with Ferrell and pitched him his “weatherman from Indiana comes to the big city” sitcom idea.
Now the show’s often gone pretty meta with mentions of Jim’s real (not show) life, but this was a pretty funny bit from Gaffigan’s past to bring back to the forefront. Similar to the way he subtly dropped a candid mention of his Conan cartoon Pale Force last episode, he went way back this episode to the 2000-2001 show Welcome to New York on CBS…where he played a popular Indiana weatherman who becomes a New York meteorologist…named Jim Gaffigan. The only thing better than that little deep cut are Jeannie and Daniel’s reactions to him pitching that idea as a potential sitcom. It’s almost as if that concept has been stuck on his mind for years.
But regardless, La La Land had Gaffigan more nervous than we’re use to seeing him, and the slight feeling that everything was unreal (visually every shot in LA looked very glossy) was a nice way of showing why Gaffigan lives in New York, even if he has to live in a two bedroom with five kids and his wife. But if he wants to get them a nicer apartment with an outdoor space, he’ll have to sell out a little bit and work on a TV show for Ferrell before he can get his weatherman show off the ground. Jeannie didn’t have a B storyline really this episode, except breaking into near song and dance over the outdoor space which would give them a taste of suburbia by “being in the city, but not in the city,” to which I say…Astoria’s really nice-come on over gang. But even though she didn’t have a stand-alone story, she provided enough motivation that Jim’s decision to work on a TV show (when he really didn’t want to) made sense.
That TV show he’s being assigned to, looping everything back around to the overall arc of these three episodes, will of course be The Dave Marks Show. Ferrell’s producing the show for TV Land and he feels Dave needs a foil like Jim for his edgy character. So he has to write on the show (assuming he’ll also appear alongside Dave), but soon realizes the kind of show John and Dave want to do has little to do with the kind of show Jim wants to be a part of…making him miserable. The final punch to Jim’s gut (calling back to Chris Hardwick’s warning about meeting with Ferrell), comes when Ferrell suggests Dave not make his kind of show…but make his character a fish out of water weatherman.
Being the episode with arguably no set up or resolution makes it hard to come to a conclusion about how it works (next week we’ll see how they bring everything together). But the most interesting thing to note about this current arc all relate to Jim and Dave’s relationship. Dave had always been a sounding board for Jim on the show…a funny guy who offered little encouragement, but did lend an ear. But as if he’s grown tired of being the sidekick standing behind the big name, Dave’s taken his 5 minutes of fame and used it to let out all the animosity which seems to have been building up for years. The punches at Jim’s lifestyle are almost always low blows; the meanest being when he called Jeannie “smoking hot” and “out of his league.” Because that hits on something that clearly comes from an insecurity Jim has likely expressed to Dave. Jim may not have been the most aware friend to Dave (Dave’s life seems to be a mystery to him most of the time), but Dave’s willingness to use what Jim has revealed about himself seems out of line.
Which made me think of one bigger issue the show’s addressing this season…how comics borrow from their real-life, and the people in them. Jim Gaffigan’s humor has always been primarily based on self-deprecation. But while the show clearly borrows quite a lot from his real-life, this is the episode which puts him on the other side of that part of the job. Even if they change the name character based on Jim for Dave Marks’ show, he knows it’s based on him, so all of Dave’s negativity has made the character into someone just to make fun of. The character isn’t one based on real affection anymore, but deep seated animosity, and that makes Jim fearful of what will be used from his real-life. But it also made me think of how the real-life inspirations for Daniel and Dave on the show might feel about how they’re portrayed. Even if they aren’t based specifically on one person (Goldberg claims Marks is an amalgam of New York comics within Jim’s inner circle). But when they watch the show, how do the feel about what (and how) Jim puts out to the public? I don’t know, but I certainly thought about it after watching this episode.