The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

87° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    New series ‘Baskets’ doesn’t quite hit the mark

    Still from a clip of “Baskets,” a new show that aired on FX on Thursday, Jan. 21. Baskets is based around Zach Galifianakis’ character, Chip Baskets, a failed professional clown who instead becomes a local rodeo clown in Bakersfield, California.

    FX’s new comedy “Baskets” is a show about following your dreams and never letting anyone tell you what you can or can’t do … sort of.

    The series stars Zach Galifianakis as Chip Baskets, a man who wants nothing in life other than to be a professional clown.

    The pilot episode opens with Baskets attending a clown school in Paris, then flunking out because he has no talent and doesn’t speak French. The art of clowning is hard enough and nearly impossible with such a language barrier. Then Baskets returns home to Bakersfield, California, with his new wife, Penelope, who makes it very clear right from the beginning that she is only marrying him to get a green card.

    Baskets soon gets a highly prestigious, well-paying clowning gig at the local rodeo and it looks like his dreams are finally beginning to come true.

    Just kidding. Highly prestigious, well-paying clown gigs are very hard to come by, so poor Baskets is forced to live on his approximately $4-an-hour wage as a rodeo clown, because he refuses to give up on his dreams of stardom.

    The series also stars stand-up comedians Martha Kelly as insurance agent Martha Brooks and Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets, Chip’s mother.

    Martha is Chip’s only friend and her stoic toleration of the way Chip constantly berates her makes for some of the funnier parts of the series. A series high point is in the third episode, when Martha invites what she thinks is a stray dog into her home. After the supposed dog completely destroys the place, we find out that it’s actually a coyote. Honest mistake, I guess.

    Even though Christine’s character is played by a man, she makes for a surprisingly convincing old-fashioned mother who tries to support Chip’s clowning endeavors, but now is starting to think that he should give it all up and get a job at Arby’s: the place where dreams go to die.

    Chip has a twin brother, Dale Baskets, also played by Galifianakis. Dale’s the dean of Baskets Career College, which is basically a satirized version of a community college. It offers degrees in such highly competitive fields as “legal guardianship” and “personalized license plating.”

    Dale shines in the one scene he is given, but that’s the problem—he is only given one scene. Dale is briefly introduced when Chip needs to borrow $40 so that his wife can buy an HBO prescription, but then isn’t seen again … at least not so far.

    The show makes it seem like Dale is going to play an important role. It seems like the relationship between Chip and Dale (get it?) will be a focus of the series, which would make it a lot more interesting than the exploration of Chip’s sad life as a wanna-be clown. Alas, Dale is gone in an instant and we’re left with just Chip.

    Like any comedy, the show has its funny moments and even occasional moments of gut-wrenching hilarity. But a lot of it doesn’t work and many of these faults can be attributed to one very important fact: Galifianakis just isn’t very funny.

    The comedian, who rose to prominence with his role as Alan Garner in “The Hangover” film series, is out of his league here. Galifianakis operates with a particular comedic style. His blunt, uncomfortable humor and dead-pan delivery require an acquired taste. Galifianakis works better as a side character.

    He played a great sidekick to Jason Schwartzman’s character in the HBO series “Bored to Death,” but now he has stepped into the limelight as the lead actor in a comedy series and his comedic strength just isn’t strong enough for that. At a restaurant, you might order Galifianakis as an appetizer, but certainly not as the main course.

    The concept of the series isn’t brilliant, but it’s solid enough and the work from the supporting cast is good. The main problem lies with the leading man. The writers need to find better ways to use Galifianakis’ sense of humor, or else “Baskets” may have trouble staying on the air for longer than a season or two.

    New episodes of “Baskets” air Thursday nights on FX.

    Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search