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TERRY TERRONES: Jim Gaffigan plays an endearing everyman in 'The Jim Gaffigan Show'

By: Terry Terrones
July 13, 2015 Updated: July 13, 2015 at 4:10 am
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"The Jim Gaffigan Show"

Cast: Jim Gaffigan ("My Boys," "Ed,"), Ashley Williams ("Montana Sky," "How I Met Your Mother"), Adam Goldberg ("Saving Private Ryan," "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"), Michael Ian Black ("Ed," "Wet Hot American Summer").

Airs: The premiere episode airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday on TV Land.

The premise: Inspired by actor/comedian Jim Gaffigan's real life, "The Jim Gaffigan Show" takes the stand-up comic's stage act and morphs it into sitcom form. Jim is a man who struggles to find a balance between being a good father, a loving husband, his career in comedy and a passion for food. To help him along the way are his wife Jeannie, his best friend, Dave, and his wife's best friend, Daniel.

Highs: It takes guts to create a TV program based on your true self and that's probably why the humor in "The Jim Gaffigan Show" works. Just as in his personal life, fictionalized Jim is a stand-up comedian who lives in a two-bedroom New York City apartment with his wife and five children.

This setting sounds more like the premise for a new season of "American Horror Story" than a sitcom. Putting your foibles out for public consumption is risky and if not handled carefully the banter in a semiautobiographical series could end up trite, but this is a program in good hands. Much like Gaffigan's stage act, this sitcom demonstrates that Jim is well aware that his home life is a humor- rich environment.

Many common themes from Gaffigan's stand-up are seen on screen. Television Jim is a lot like Comic Jim - he's lazy, schlubby and obsessed with food. His weight, eating habits and even his family-friendly act are all fair game. And that's just Jim's jokes about himself. This might seem like taking shots at an easy target, but Gaffigan plays an endearing and playful everyman. When someone else teases him, Jim gives as good as he gets. Much of the humor in "The Jim Gaffigan Show" consists of the behind-closed-doors verbal sparring I imagine professional comics have with each other, without the cursing. Jim happens to be the butt of most of the show's humor, but he takes it in stride and viewers laugh along with him, not at him.

When Jim is the focal point of this series, and he is for three of the four episodes I've seen, the show works well. Part of that is due to a strong supporting cast. Dave (Adam Goldberg) is the lecherous, perennially single best friend. He's the devil on Jim's shoulder, frequently getting him into trouble. But Dave is also a reminder of how lucky Jim is to be happily married. Daniel (Michael Ian Black) is hilarious and Gaffigan's polar opposite. Jeannie's snooty, impeccably dressed bestie is the perfect foil for her slovenly spouse.

Lows: The most challenging part about enjoying "The Jim Gaffigan Show" is getting through the unfunny pilot episode. In the opener, the jokes are predictable and Jim is pushed to the background while his wife (Ashley Williams) takes control. Unfortunately, her role in the premiere is not a positive one. Viewers will witness Jeannie boss her husband around, pressure him into doing things he doesn't want to do and even manipulate Jim with food. In the pilot Jeannie is a sitcom stereotype - the nagging wife.

Thankfully, "The Jim Gaffigan Show" hits the reset button in episode two. From there on we see Jeannie as another humorous character who has good chemistry with Jim. But if you only watch the first episode, chances are this series will turn you off. The pilot doesn't make a good first impression.

Grade: B+: This show will draw a lot of comparisons to comedian Louis C.K.'s critically acclaimed FX series, "Louie." I believe "The Jim Gaffigan Show" is better. It's funnier and there are no traces of dark comedy.

TV Land's new sitcom is filled with humor and the occasional heartfelt moment. There's not much more you can ask from a comedy than that.


Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.

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