Tonight’s season premiere of The Life and Times of Tim features a lot of that certain something that makes the show more than just the surreal love child of Seinfeld and Office Space, only animated. I’m tempted to say that the certain je ne sais quoi that the show’s got in spades is directly related to how proudly juvenile and out there the show can get.
Show creator Steve Dildarian’s titular character is pretty funny once Dildarian, who also writes and directs episodes, latches onto a surreal enough premise. This is, after all, a visually primitive cartoon whose characters and backgrounds look like they were hand-drawn by a kindergartener. Its biggest asset is the seemingly limitless reserve of outré scenarios Dildarian thrusts his characters into. Tim goes through some pretty uniquely strange situations and accepts even the worst situations with all of the grace of a beleaguered sitcom character.
For example, in the pilot, Tim’s girlfriend Amy brings his parents to their apartment so that she can finally introduce them to him. Unfortunately, Tim has a prostitute on his couch when they come over. But Amy’s parents don’t bat an eye at this. They talk about their cruise and generally address Tim as if they weren’t in the same room as a prostitute that just loudly announced that Tim owes her $300 for anal sex. In the pilot’s second segment, Tim talks about being his imaginary experience being raped by a hobo on 60 Minutes just because he kind-heartedly agreed to lie to his co-workers about how good his butch friend Rodney’s bachelor party was. Yeah, The Life and Times of Tim is weird and often, it’s proportionally as good as it is strange.
Tonight’s episode, the season premiere of the show’s third season, is actually mostly pretty strong. I prefer “The Model from Newark,” the first of tonight’s episode’s two stories, to “Tim’s Hair Looks Amazing,” mainly because I find the latter segment to be a little too neat and contrived. In “Tim’s Hair looks Amazing,” Tim tries to secure a job at an accounting firm after getting a new haircut and realizing that he is, in fact, a lousy tipper. His failure to get that job because of a bad hair cut is clever but this segment just seemed too sheepish to ever really take off, though it did have plenty of very funny moments.
The episode begins with a hilarious patchwork “Previously On” montage of various events that happened throughout the show’s second season. I especially like that they started this sequence off by reminding us that at one point in season two, someone was in fact wondering aloud if there were 35 clowns in a subterranean pit. Yeah, this is that kind of a show.
In any case, Tim is still somehow with his girlfriend Amy. He does not have a job working with OmniCorp anymore but he does have a job working as the personal assistant to Tanya, a very sweaty professional basketball player operating out of Newark, New Jersey. Tim has told his girlfriend that he’s actually just traded up and started working for a new firm, Ernst and Young. But really, he spends his days and nights wiping Tanya’s sweaty crotch with the shirt off of his own back and securing pee from other women for Tanya so that she can pass a drug test.
And can I just say: I love Tanya. Dildarian has a lot of fun with the character and rarely misses the mark with her, which is actually pretty commendable considering how outlandish she is. I mean, this is a woman that rewards Tim’s loyalty for securing urine for her drug test by slapping down five singles as if they were worth significantly more than just $5. The utter arbitrariness of her thanking Tim for helping her find her Pizza Hut menu, because she would have never thought to look up above the toilet, is pretty fantastic.
The inevitable fight that Amy and Tim have about working for Tanya is also rather satisfying, especially the bit where he lies and say that he was out at a “strudel-baking class.” Here’s where Dildarian’s Mametian tendency of having Tim repeat what the person he’s arguing with just said in order to coyly feign indifference really comes in handy. “It wasn’t a strudel-baking class,” Tim asks after Amy decisively tells him that it was not. She firmly repeats herself. “What part of that story was unclear,” he asks with one eyebrow arched. Soon after that, Tanya throws a cup of pee on Amy’s face.
Later, in “Tim’s Hair Looks Amazing,” Tim gets a callback for a second interview at an important firm. So he imagines that he has to get a hair cut to get the job (“You don’t think I look like Phil Spector,” he asks Amy, genuinely worried.). Along the way, Tim and his former co-worker Stu get into a car accident with a cabby that freaks out when Tim tries to use his rearview mirror to straight his hair. This narrative felt too sitcom quirky for my tastes, honestly, too staid to actually be more than just a cute story that had its moments.
My favorite bits in “Tim’s Hair Looks Amazing,” are tellingly the tangential arguments that Tim has with three different hair stylists. At their best, these fights are so surreally heated and unhinged, like when Tim reprimands a receptionist for not being “Vivacious” enough after she tells him he’s “really opinionated” for a guy with a bad haircut. Another highlight for me is when he’s the only white client at a black barbershop and he tries to tell the barber how it used to be with his old barber, even going so far as to talk about proper topics of small talk. “In my chair, we talk about big butts and we talk about big titties,” says the barber, to which Tim queasily replies, “Are those my only two small talk options?” It’s a very good thing that The Life and Times of Tim is as sporadically inspired as it is. Otherwise, this show would have no legs at all.