Monday, August 14, 2017

TV Show Review: I'm Dying Up Here

This Showtime dramedy takes a familiar premise of looking at the lives of comics, pushes it into the past to the 70s so it's a period piece and develops some interesting characters. I'm not sure if the show will get another season as I don't see it being very popular but I found it strangely appealing when I watched it and the humor mixed well with the tough lives of these individuals who pursue their hilarious dreams. Two big actors, Alfred Molina and Sebastian Stan, only stick around for the pilot episode as other characters take up the greater part of the ensemble cast led by the brilliant Melissa Leo. Leo plays Goldie, the owner of the comedy club, who decides the fate of the up-and-coming comedians. She deals with the sexism prevalent during the time period and the industry with a class that the veteran actress pulls off with style. She persistent when she has an idea and protective of her comics though she'll never let them know that and deals effectively with the big egos. 

Bill Hobbs (Andrew Santino) hopes to make it to the big time but his ego is the biggest of the comedians and when he talks poorly to a patron of the club during his set, he loses his big shot at Johnny Carson. Adam Proteau (RJ Cyler) is a young black comedian who hopes that Goldie will help him open doors after his agent sends him her way and he helps him do chores around the house. Cassie Feder (Ari Graynor) is the female comic who tries to be one of the boys, though they always single her out. Cassie and Bill dated for a while but their professional aspirations get in the way. Eddie Zeidel (Michael Angarano) and Ron Shack (Clark Duke) head out to Los Angeles from Boston but when the comedian who promises them a place to live ends up dead, they have to struggle to survive, living in a closet and only eating rice they won at a game show. 

There are so many characters all with hilarious jokes. Edgar Martinez (Al Madrigal) deals drugs and changes his name to Manny to garner attention and survive in the business. Ralph King (Erik Griffin) has returned from Vietnam to work the stage. Sully Patterson (Stephen Guarino) struggles to decide whether he should pursue a professional life or continue to work towards his dream. His dedication causes friction with his wife who takes care of their newborn while he stays out late cracking jokes. Barton Royce (Obba Babatund√©) poaches talent from Goldie and has an eye for Proteau as he manages a top black comic, Richard Pryor. Proteau works for Barton at his brothel doing laundry and helping the prostitutes get rid of angry Johns. 

Each one of the comedians hopes to move up from the open mic to the big stage but risk the possibility of bombing and their order is at the whim of the doorman Arnie Brown (Jon Daly). It's easy to get lost in the lives of these characters and interspersed with their stories are the stand-up acts that are always good for a laugh. Goldie pursues a chance at television promoting women comics but clashes with the studio executives. Nick Beverly (Jake Lacy) comes out a few episodes in with a great act that he takes to television but his addiction to heroin causes problems when he tries to land an agent. Bill Hobbs has his father Warren (Glenn Morshower) come out to stay with him after he loses his job but becomes a burden on his comedian son who he feels like is a disappointment. The dynamic between father and son come to a head when Warren kills himself in a car that he then gifts Bill. 

Jim Carrey produced the show reflecting back from his own experiences at the clubs before his rise to fame. I have enjoyed most of the shows I've seen about striving comedians mostly because I'm not brave enough to take that risk and I enjoy watching stand up comedy so these shows have a nice mix of story and funny. It was cool to be introduced to a bunch of new actors amidst the veterans like Melissa Leo, who is extraordinary, and to see a few comedic actors get bigger roles that are little more serious while still showing off their talent. While I don't think the show was a critical success or achieved enough viewers to stay on, I would be curious to see where the show goes for a second season.  

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