Somewhere in the shapeless void between humor-of-the-pathetic archetypes like Job, who had misfortune thrust needlessly upon him, and latter-day Dadaist practitioners of poor judgment like Peter Griffin, who makes Pollack splatter art of even the most mundanely commonsensical of daily choices, lies Steve Dildarian’s Tim. Kinesthetically gawky (his arms, and those of his companions, tend to move in hard, angular, 12-frames-per-second jabs), perpetually dressed down (in both senses), and prone to casually defensive mumbling that forms pensive lines among his pen-pricked facial stubble, Tim embodies a younger, slightly more self-aware manifestation of Larry David’s anti-everyman malaise: It’s not that he’s a bad guy, really, it’s just that when confronted with quotidian conundrums, he’ll invariably attempt the most exacerbating course of action. Unlike David, however, whose foul deliberation and faux-arrogance suck the remaining cast of Curb Your Enthusiasm into a Semitic-themed whirlpool of petulantly pregnant pauses, Tim floats through his poor luck with jejune meekness and ever-so-slightly pained eyes, fully prepared to greet every sour knock with an underwhelmed and wincingly futile explanation.
Tim is the well-meaning but deaf-to-social-rhythm man who’ll take advantage of the ability to purchase a stripper’s twirler brassiere for his long-suffering (but inconceivably committed) girlfriend Amy on Valentine’s Day, who’ll fondle and subsequently compliment the texture and buoyancy of the bosom of his significant other’s wheelchair-bound grandmother upon request, and who’ll mistake a pair of corporate clients for prostitutes after being goaded against his will to reluctantly anticipate the arrival of sex workers in the first place. We shake our heads upon watching Tim foolishly dither into a clown of mistaken appearances, but that’s not to say his behavioral handicaps don’t inspire empathy. Surely slapping the underage daughter of one’s boss on the rear end if she’s begging for some innocuous titillation from her chaperone can seem like a fine idea until the skin of the palm meets the curve of the buttock a shade too roughly on accident—can’t it?
There is, indeed, something about Tim as a emblem that seems inconspicuously zeitgeisty, right down to the fact that his vehicle, The Life & Times of Tim—which semi-famed ad man Dildarian singularly auteurs as creator, star, director, and writer—hasn’t garnered effusive ratings or praise but seems relatively comfortable with its conventionality all the same. Most episodes push the envelope gratuitously and groan-inducingly (Tim’s sexually-harassing co-worker Stu solicits women in bars by converting his name into a verb), and the partly-improvised dialogue keeps the humor level at a delicate simmer that only occasionally burbles over into foamy drippings of hilarity; the actors strike periodically at the same perfunctory, retro-scripted charm that allowed Home Movies to nearly always produce le mot juste, but the sitcomy plots of Tim aren’t conducive to the abstract, ambulatory conversations necessary to achieve such sophistication.
The show’s success rests entirely on the strength of Dildarian’s configurations of befuddlement and frustration, most of which run the gamut from mild-to-medium amusement. One notable exception is an inspired scenario wherein Tim confesses to Amy and all the females in her extended family that he masturbated in a church bathroom to the image of their bottoms provocatively wriggling through a wedding ceremony—an unthinkably contrived denouement that Dildarian finesses us into accepting, albeit with laughter, as logically reasonable. But a sizable part of the show’s appeal is how the production values seem steeped in Tim’s sweet but half-assed ethos: The Flash-animated characters appear roughly scrawled with their tube-nozzle noses and scribble-patterned hair, and no one, including the audience, bothers (or perhaps deigns) to display any enthusiasm. Rather than merely seeming effortless, The Life & Times of Tim is effortless, an attribute that reaches out and shrugs vacantly in the direction of the confused Tim in all of us.
As pointed out, the animation of The Life & Times of Tim is purposefully crude, but considering that the show is mastered for HBO’s hi-def channels one would anticipate a slightly more sparkly image on even a standard-definition DVD. When upconverting to 1080p all the seams show, including some tell-tale Flash artifacting during examples of particularly choppy movement (though the bulk of the movement in the show is choppy, giving the program an unnatural, stilted appearance, as though we were watching it through perpetually nervous eyes). The muted color scheme translates well to standard def, however, and the DVD’s 5.1 mix enables the plaintive warbling of Hank Williams’s scathingly apropos theme song—“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”—to tug so hard at the heart it reaches the funny bone.
The only extras are a collection of 10 promotional shorts, which run between 30 and 60 seconds. As blackout sketches go, some are quite funny, but a short featurette on the show’s genesis, or interview with voice talent, would have been much more satisfying.
The Life & Times of Tim is a timely, f-bomb-laden comedy that doesn’t require breaking a sweat to produce or appreciate, and that might be precisely what’s missing from premium programming.
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