There’s a scent of something radical in the set-up to Comedy Central’s Idiotsitter, which stars Workaholics breakout Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse, who met through working at West Coast improv mecca The Groundlings. The center of the series’ premise is money; Newhouse plays Billie, a Harvard grad scrambling for a decent job and ducking phone calls from her student loan collectors, to the point that she’s currently looking at nanny and babysitting positions. When she shows up for her latest interview, with Kent (an expectedly hilarious Stephen Root), a wealthy magnate, she’s happy to get a job but is hesitant to take the gig when she realizes she’ll be looking after Gene (Bell), Kent’s unhinged twenty-something daughter who is in need of some guidance and a tutor for her GED.
In essence, Billie becomes the responsible parent to Gene, whose father and stepmother are often elsewhere on vacation or at some random work event. It’s not exactly difficult to see how this reflects the modern economic landscape, considering that the dwindling middle-class has so often had to pay out of pocket for the reckless, greedy behavior of the obscenely wealthy. There’s a hint of the anger and bewilderment that this state of affairs fosters in fleeting moments of Idiotsitter, but it never quite coalesces in the scattershot narrative, which is focused far more on underlying the improvisational tone of each episode. Rather than highlight the absurdity of what money both buys and allows, the show’s creators prefer to underline the outrageous, unexpected things that the characters say, as well as wanton drug use and startling ineptitude.
This is all well and good, as Workaholics and Broad City are similarly built on a sense of improvisation, but unlike those shows, Idiotsitter isn’t particularly inventive in its plot turns and general storytelling. There’s a little too much amiable, humorous rambling and talking going on here, at least for the relatively meager visuals that accompany it. Early on, Gene attempts to get Billie fired, and her route is through framing her as a sex-crazed drug addict by filling her room with a whole bunch of vulgar nonsense – dildos, cocaine, an American History X poster, etc. It’s a familiar gag that’s rarely been funny in any iteration, but here, it lands with a particular thud, as the humor is centered more on the plot of the episode than the preposterousness of the situation. In other words, the series is primarily interested in conveying the beats of the flimsy, superfluous story of the episode, which hems in the performers’ creativity in crafting jokes.
What’s most disappointing about this is that all the performers here are inarguably funny, and In the case of Bell and Root, there’s rarely an instance where their inclusion hasn’t bettered any film or TV program they’ve appeared in. The problem is that the humor is not rooted in the subject that the show purports to be about – namely, wealth and the immaturity it engenders – and more about the importance of friendship and family. And even under this rubric, Idiotsitter offers no particular insight or intimate experience to render its view of these subjects distinct or, more importantly, relatable. The talent involved is enough to ensure that Comedy Central’s latest is vaguely amusing, but Idiotsitter should have been more riotous than amiable, more uniquely ruthless than blandly juvenile.
★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated
Idiotsitter airs on Comedy Central on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m.