Jim Gaffigan Show Series Finale Review: Jim the Friend vs Jim the Dad Comes Full Circle


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It says a lot about The Jim Gaffigan Show this season that the final two episodes can essentially get to the heart of the two issues the show’s been most interested in focusing on this season; Jim as a friend and Jim as a father. Arguably, Jim is a pretty good friend, as we saw in the three parter, No Good Deed, even if his friendship with Dave Marks tends to be ridiculously one-sided. On the other hand, Jim’s clearly been questioned regarding his fathering skills the season. The season started with the episode The Calling, and then there was He Said, She Said, about Jim’s selfishness at home, and Jim at the Museum when he lost the kids. If Jim’s occasionally a bad father, Jim’s biggest flaw is his tendency not to engage with the kids as much as he could.

His connection to child raising and friendship were at the center of Jim at the Museum, so it makes sense that the last two episodes would highlight both in Sunday’s hour-long, two-episode finale, which by the way, is now the series finale.

In Bosom Buddies, while Jeannie is out of town with all five kids for a wedding (featuring some of the funniest background behavior by the kids), Jim delights in some of that rare alone time in his two bedroom apartment. The fact that his reaction to alone time is to order as much take out as possible at one time is both hilarious, and predicts some of what we’ll see in the final episode, The Mike Gaffigan Show. When Jim is alone, he celebrates by going to extremes with his eating. But the same behavior that is a cute form of rebellion from a child delighting in all access to ice cream and Cheese Whiz is a little sad when a 40 year old man does it.

When alone, Jim isn’t the playboy Dave Marks dreams he could be, suggesting they throw some kind of teenage house party (featuring some comedian cameos such as Doug Benson). He just wants to be alone and leave the house as little as possible. But Daniel won’t allow that to happen when he comes by to be consoled by Jeannie after breaking up with his boyfriend…and finds only Jim to ease his broken heart. On cue, Jim and Daniel form their own Odd Couple (including a cue from the theme song). All season Jim and Daniel’s relationship has been consistently tested to see how much they can actually tolerate each other. They are spending more and more time together in episodes, and while their mocking and teasing of each other remains, neither takes the other’s ribbing personally. What started as a relationship filled with animosity has settled into a nice love-hate friendship.

A different love-hate relationship is red hot between Dave and Daniel who are even more opposite one another than middle-of-the-road Jim, and clearly they come from different worlds. And while both react to one another as if Jim has brought them something nasty, the fun prickly qualities of their relationship with Jim, now softened over time, are alive and well when they’re thrown together. Daniel excels when he has someone he can be tough on, which makes Dave the perfect foil…because nothing bothers him. Dave’s like the Jordan Schlansky to Daniel’s Conan O’Brien…if Dave weren’t such a slob. And Jim is their perfect middle man.

Together they attend the New Yorker Fest that Jim is being interviewed for (much to Daniel’s awe and jealousy). Dave wants to flirt with smart girls in glasses, Daniel wants to be a part of the New Yorker crowd, and Jim has to grin and bear it as the writers in attendance realize he’s not one of them and rarely reads actual books…but he does read Twitter. When Daniel’s boyfriend arrives and somehow manages to be even more of a namedropper, Daniel manages to use Dave and his recent 15 minutes of fame as a Will Ferrell protégé to his advantage, and make his ex-jealous by leaving the party with Dave (who came to his side when he needed him, proving he isn’t THAT big of a jerk).
Jim wraps up his Saturday night with his two friends, rather than alone as he planned, both now annoyed to be spending their weekend with him. It’s interesting that while Jim and Daniel have come to some common ground over the weekend and discovered their friendship, Daniel and Dave seem closer after this weekend than Jim is to either. Jim is the dad who rarely has a free weekend for Saturday nights out, but Daniel and Dave are free and easy single New Yorkers.

Which might be why the Gaffigans choose to end the series with The Mike Gaffigan Show, highlighting the fact that there’s nothing wrong with Jim being known for being first and foremost, a dad. After taking the kids home from the playground with the threat of a storm (a scene nearly identical to a scene earlier in the season with Jeannie managing all five) Jim leaves Jeannie so he can go to work…only to come home to them all still awake. In a bit of “wait until your father gets home” parenting, Jim’s sent in to quiet them down while Jeannie takes a break…but really, just scares them with his booming voice and goes into his bedroom to answer emails.

Of course the reason they’re up– the scary storm– wakes them back up and sends them into Jim’s bed for some consoling and cuddling. So Jim tells what’s sure to be a boring story…a story about himself as a child. The man with the big booming voice in this story is of course his father (played by Jim), who was far stricter and scarier than Jim has ever been with his kids. And as played by Jim, is the very typical Midwest post baby boom father; he barks orders, wants a private den, and total authority over his six kids. And youngest of those six happens to be Jimmy (the same child we see in My Brother’s Keeper), the child always eating and getting yelled at by his older siblings.

In this story, things end with Jimmy being left “home alone” when the family forgets to bring him into the cellar during a dangerous storm. Delighted to finally be ALONE, he does what big Jim does…goes food crazy. He doesn’t even seem worried about being left alone during a storm…he just loves the quiet. But he is scared when a man comes to the door, unaware that his dad (Mike) has come to rescue his son. And when Jimmy finally realizes it is his father, his fear of the scary intruder and of his father melts away and he’s delighted to realize his father cares enough for him to rescue him from the storm (and break the kitchen window). And instead of bringing Jimmy right back down to the other kids who so often push him into the background, Jimmy and Mike have that rare father-son bonding moment over an ice-cream and Cheese Whiz sundae. And back in present day, Jim spends the night bonding with his kids having a little slumber party, and realizes how nice it is to be loved and not feared by his kids.

It was a tender way to end the season, and entire series. And considering how personal and intimate the show got in just two seasons, it has proven itself to be a high quality piece of cable TV. Both a loving tribute to traditional family sitcoms and modern take on family, friendships, and fame, the show blossomed into the show really good comedies want to be. Rather than actively trying to appeal to the broadest audiences possible and selling out, it maintained the vision of the creators and let their audience find them. And that was something the Gaffigans did remarkably well for two brilliant seasons.

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Lesley Coffin is a feature editor for FF2media and has also written the books Lew Ayres: Hollywood Conscientious Objector (2012) and Hitchcock's Stars (2014), and currently writing a third book. Follow on twitter @filmbiographer for thoughts on movies and cat pictures.
Lesley Coffin
Lesley Coffin
Lesley Coffin is a feature editor for FF2media and has also written the books Lew Ayres: Hollywood Conscientious Objector (2012) and Hitchcock's Stars (2014), and currently writing a third book. Follow on twitter @filmbiographer for thoughts on movies and cat pictures.