The return of ‘Odd Mom Out,’ one of TV’s sharpest sitcoms, and more shows to watch this week
“Odd Mom Out” (Bravo, Mondays); “The Jim Gaffigan Show” (Sundays, TV Land). New York City stories, more or less about grown-ups more or less grown up, uptown and down. It isn’t over for the old town yet.
One would not necessarily expect one of TV’s sharpest sitcoms to be hiding out on Bravo, in that network’s customary thicket of money-worshipping, nightmare reality shows -- but there it is. “Odd Mom Out,” whose second season begins this week, stars its creator, Jill Kargman, in a partial adaptation of her 2007 novel “Momzillas,” as Jill Weber, a well-to-do but pointedly not super-wealthy child of the Upper East Side, now there with her own three children and husband (Andy Buckley). Somehow, if only by contrast with the blond blandness of their upper-crust friends and relations, the series makes them, believably, relatively bohemian. They are a step or two out of step with the neighborhood, too afflicted with good sense and self-awareness to buy what everyone else is buying. (It helps that Jill’s best friend, Vanessa, played by KK Glick, is merely a doctor.)
The new season finds Jill, a photographer, looking to get back to work, while her lawyer spouse, unemployed or on sabbatical, learns what it’s like to take care of the kids. (There are no nannies in evidence.) Show runners Elisa Zuritsky and Julie Rottenberg (“Sex and the City,” Smash”) keep things spiky and semi-topical – there are riffs on Uber ratings, power posing and “The Joy Manifesto,” which is apparently a real thing and which seems to have affected everyone Jill meets. (“Thanks to Joy,” says Abby Elliott’s Brooke, recently separated from Jill’s brother-in-law, “I have manifested an entirely new philosophy; women need to stick together, to demand equal pay, equal rights, equal everything – it’s what I am calling shedonism.” “You mean feminism?” replies Jill.) “Hamilton” is also here, unavoidably: “I saw it twice last month,” says brother-in-law Lex (Sean Kleier). “It changed my life – but then, the second time it changed back, so I’m going again.” Kargman, who had not acted before 40, is wonderful in the only part she’s ever played (she’s got a fine singing voice too, it transpires). And though she is surrounded by excellent players, also including Joanna Cassidy and, as her parents, Blythe Danner and Dan Hedaya, she does not need their support.
Ashley Williams plays his wife, Jeannie, usually but not always smarter than he is; each has the traditional best friend, Michael Ian Black for her, Adam Goldberg for him. (Goldberg, angry and unevolved, is well used here. “It must be nice to be as delusional as you,” says Jim. “It isn’t bad,” says Adam.) In one Kafka-burlesque episode relating to the real-life tweetstorm the comedian called down in 2013 with a one-liner about women’s nails, he finds himself on trial for “being a dumb, ignorant, stupid, idiot, white guy,” locked up in “social outrage jail” with Carrot Top, Gilbert Gottfried and Nickelback. In another, left off a list of New York’s 100 best comics, he crosses the East River into descending circles of millennial alt.comedy, where his jokes about avocados and corned beef fall flat. “Normally, I find the idea of punchlines confrontational,” says one young person, “but by the end I got it – I felt the impulse to laugh, but I didn’t want you to project your expectations onto me.” The show, of course, is smarter than its characters.
“Dateline: On Assignment” (NBC, Friday). In which David Letterman and Tom Brokaw, two men of the Midwest and the media (retired), sit down and stand up and walk and talk, just a little over a year from the former’s leaving his “Late Show.” Brokaw, who met with Letterman over Memorial Day weekend in Indianapolis, Letterman’s hometown, was one of the last of the superstar news anchors – sorry, Lester Holt, Scott Pelley and (I had to look it up to remember) David Muir, I just don’t think of you that way – while Letterman, now one-third beard, has turned into a kind of friendly Sasquatch. Most days hidden in the bush, he’s sighted now and again, appearing before a camera or a crowd to unpack whatever barbed quips, timely observations and philosophical koans have been collecting in his mind; Jon Stewart, less abundantly bearded, has followed a similar path.
We have come to depend on the late-night people of cable and of broadcast to cut through the nonsense, to be straight with us when only straight talk will do or to share their confusion when confusion is the only available response. Letterman, who lived in the host’s chair as comfortably as anyone ever has, was, on camera, unusually present as a person, even as he somehow remained a private one; he didn’t tell all, but what he did always felt honest. Appearing alongside Brokaw in a baggy green T-shirt, he evidently feels no need to put on a show. Sample of preview dialogue: Brokaw: “Did they ask you about who should replace you?” Letterman: “No. Oh, no. No, they didn’t ask me about anything. They were just – they were just happy I was going.”
Originally scheduled to air June 12, this edition of “Dateline” was preempted by the Orlando shootings, of which Letterman surely would have had something valuable, if not necessarily comforting, to say. Also on Friday’s episode: Lester Holt goes riding in Watts with a “special community police unit,” and there’s something about “drug industry insider, Steven Francesco, whose son died suddenly from a rare side effect of taking antipsychotics.” (I am quoting the press release, lazily, but that’s all I know about it in any case.)
“Decker: Unclassified” (Adult Swim, Fridays). Tim Heidecker’s meta-fictional, satirical, secret-agent series moves from the Web to traditional television this week. Given the shootings in Orlando and the sort of things that shoot out of Donald Trump’s mouth, a comedy about terrorism and jingoism may not be the comedy you need right now. Or it might be just the comedy you need.
Spun off from “On Cinema at the Cinema,” the parody online film review series Heidecker co-hosts with Gregg Turkington, “Decker” presents itself as the amateurish work of a flag-waving lunkhead with a conspiracy-shaped worldview whose hero resembles its creator – the fictionalized Heidecker, that is – in every respect. Heidecker and Turkington play double roles, both as their passively aggressive “On Cinema” selves and their “Decker” characters, who also incorporate the complicated personal histories and preoccupations they have elsewhere developed – not only in “On Cinema” but in Heidecker’s and Turkington’s warring Twitter feeds, in personal appearances and in the press. This burgeoning mythology now includes Heidecker’s hard rock band Dekkar, Turkington’s Victorville Film Archive and the birth and death of Heidecker’s son Tom Cruise Heidecker, which, through a life insurance policy and a self-awarded arts grant has supposedly helped to fund the current season of “Decker,” which has a “bigger budget” and “better,” but still bad, special effects. It is the rare instance in which the death of an infant has been employed as a device for comedy, though Heidecker’s work, including various series with sometime partner Eric Wareheim, is full of rare instances.
The new season is the fourth or the third, depending on where you stand on the canonicity of “Decker vs. Dracula,” the Turkington-helmed, Heidecker-aborted season that followed “Decker” and “Decker: Port of Call: Hawaii”; this is a subject of heated debate within the audience-participating Deckerverse. (All the previous seasons are available online at AdultSwim.com; seven seasons of “On Cinema at the Cinema,” plus a recent “On Cinema Town Hall,” can be seen here.) “Unclassified” begins in the future, on July 4, 2076, as Jack Decker finally expires – in perfect physical condition – then moves on to a series of flashback episodes in which he fights terrorists on a plane, travels back in time to stop Pearl Harbor, and first meets Turkington’s code-breaking Agent Kington. Joe Estevez returns as both President Davidson and President Davidson Jr. Guests this year include Sally Kellerman as a scheming future first lady and former Beach Boy Al Jardine as a science adviser selling the “hoax” of global warming:. “Don’t you understand?” Decker protests. “A weak energy policy based on hippie-dippy tutti-frutti quack green science will only lead to the terrorists getting the upper hand.” Then he goes out to burn some fossil fuels.
(Full declassified disclosure: I moderated the 2015 and 2016 two editions of Decker-Con, a panel discussion with the stars in character; improvised narrative may have occurred.)
Jack Aiello’s middle-school graduation speech (YouTube). Chicago eighth-grader Jack Aiello remotely auditions for the 2026 cast of “Saturday Night Live” or next season’s “America’s Got Talent” by delivering his graduation speech “in the style of some of the 2016 presidential candidates” -- Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton – “and President Obama.” It’s the classic impressionist’s proposal – “What if so-and-so were to do such-and-such – well, I think it would go something like this” – and Aiello, who is good at this and not just “good for a kid” – puts it across. More than 600,000 people have viewed it on YouTube since it was uploaded June 8. We have a winner.
On Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd
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