Rather quietly, Steve Dildarian’s The Life And Times Of Tim has become one of the subtlest, funniest, and crudest (in terms of the animation, but the writing team isn’t afraid of getting saucy) animated series on television. The show has built up a cult audience on HBO that should be much larger and might be were it part of the Adult Swim lineup. Dildarian’s talent lies in the comedy of the cringe, creating situations of excruciating embarrassment that provokes nervous giggles building to crippling bursts of laughter. Chances are it’s the funniest show on television that you’re not watching or if you’re one of the converted, it’s that show you keep trying to get your friends into. Regardless, the newly released second season DVD deserves to be watched by everyone who enjoys laughing and awkward conversation. Hit the jump for my review of the second season of The Life and Times of Tim on DVD.
Steve Dildarian’s animated series started as a short that the writer/director/star made in his spare time while working in advertising. Created crudely in photoshop with an art style that looks like something created by a first time MS Paint user, Angry Unpaid Hooker won Best Animated Short at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and a deal with HBO quickly followed. Despite having the backing of the major cable network, the art style never changed, which gives Life And Times Of Tim a charmingly handmade quality. It doesn’t look like a polished network animated series, but the work of a youtube comedian. The art style might put off confused channel flippers, but works perfectly in the context of the series. This isn’t a show about flashy visuals or artful design, it’s about social minutia and in many ways plays almost like a radio play with an animated component.
Like a radio play, the entire cast records the series together, which is vital for Dildarian’s brand of comedy. His self-styled Tim is an awkward twenty-something with a preternatural skill for finding embarrassment. Whether it be accidentally getting in a fist fight with an old man or taking a troupe of Boy Scouts on a an ill-advised trip to Central Park involving transvestite prostitutes and high profit fake purse sales, there’s no end to the character’s social suffering. Since much of the humor derives from Tim anxiously trying to talk his way out of his latest humiliation, the cast all speak over each other building to hysterical heights of discomfort. The show is just as funny with the picture off, but the crude sketches of Tim’s endless misadventures provide a quaint contrast to the hilarious and often dark scenarios that Dildarian and his writing team whip up.
While the first series of Life And Times Of Tim emerged a fully formed awkward comedy machine, the second season easily builds on the established form and frequently takes it to new hysterical heights. Highlights include the aforementioned Boy Scout saga, a trip to an amateur theatrical production by Tim’s buddy’s pot dealer, and an unfortunate encounter with the circus. Episodes are split into two 10-15 minute shorts (another reason why Adult Swim would be an ideal home for the series) with little to no reoccurring plot threads. Dildarian voices Tim himself and with the exception of Nick Kroll (The League), the central cast is composed of veteran character actors and voiceover artists rather than comedians. As a result, none of the performers are ever really play up the jokes. This is deadpan comedy at it’s finest with no laugh track as a guide. Stammering, misunderstandings, and endless fruitless apologies make up the humor, which will cause as much audience cringing as an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The main difference between the two HBO shows (and there are many) is that Tim is never a social assassin out to create awkward adventures, but a simple lazy man doing everything he can to avoid conflict before struggling to talk his way out of it when it inevitably arrives.
Though never a ratings killer, The Life And Times Of Tim developed enough cult appeal by the second series to line up an impressive array of guest stars in nearly every episode. The likes of Aziz Ansari, JK Simmons, Will Forte Judah Friedlander, Andrew Daly, Elliot Gould, Philip Baker Hall, Alfred Molina, and Marc Maron all make appearances and slot into the show’s delicate tone perfectly. The second series is probably better than the first overall and without much backstory to speak of, would make for a perfect introduction for newcomers. HBO’s DVD provides all of the episodes in the best visual quality possible, but sadly only offers a lone special feature, an informative if brief 10-minute “making of” feature. Given how unique the series is and how many interesting guest stars popped up, a commentary or two would have been nice, but in a way the lackluster DVD and unpredictable season renewals of the series feel appropriate. Tim isn’t a guy who’d ever get much fanfare. The fact that the show even exists and is enjoyed by a small and loyal fanbase is more positive reinforcement than the character will ever receive on the show. He’s one of the most lovable losers on TV and the series’ perpetually underrated status is perversely perfect.