Baskets – A
For all the absurd moments of our “hero” Chip Baskets trying to eat a comically oversized six foot party sub in a strip mall parking lot — as he does in “Picnic” — the show is never making fun of its misfits. Behind Chip’s (and Penelope’s and Ma’s and Martha’s, etc.) obtuse or seemingly uncaring moments, lie darker truths about complicated human beings just trying to play out the hands they’ve been dealt. Trying to come to terms with Ma’s coma, Penelope’s exile, and a host of indignities, Chip wanders around Bakersfield, flashing back to his time in Paris. As his surreal meet-French with Penelope unfolds in a hazy montage of drunken mimes and borderline keystone cop chases, we slowly learn more about why Chip and Penelope are who they are, what brings them together in what seemed like such a one-sided affair, and we learn what he’s trying to recreate when he eats that six-foot hoagie. Behind the absurdity and surrealism, these are real, beautiful people, and what once seemed a program about a standard Zach Galifianakis one-dimensional ornery man-child has revealed itself as a darkly moving tapestry of richly illustrated characters colliding in sadness and tiny joys in anonymity in dusty corners of Bakersfield.
– Jason Thurston
Portlandia – B+
Of all the Portlandia worlds, Lance and Nina’s is the most broad and outlandish — one where Nina going to a sixth grade dance to make Lance jealous is neither weird nor outright insane. It’s also a universe where Lance needing glasses leads to his exploring loftier intellectual heights with a new set of friends, threatening to leave scatterbrained chatterbox Nina in the dust. What makes both characters compelling instead of grotesquely off-putting is a central sweetness that would lead Nina to unabashedly question a twelve-year-old she spies playing chess in the park about everything from the pieces to what is grass, or Lance to follow her to a sock hop and unironically challenge said twelve-year-old to a fight. It’s telling that of all of Fred and Carrie’s characters, Lance and Nina are the most ridiculous, yet the most relatable and genuinely moving.
– Jason Thurston