The first episode of “Important Things With Demetri Martin” is much like the comedian himself: Somewhat aloof and not quite sure how to connect with a studio audience while making wry, Seinfeld-esque observations about life’s random events. Both his delivery and the show improve in installment No. 2, and one could make a case that by the time the season wraps up, he may have found his comedic groove … if only he would blink occasionally.
Martin, who has been a correspondent on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” obviously made an impression on Stewart, who exec produces here via his Busboy Prods. shingle. “Important Things” divvies Martin’s skills between stand-up and sketch, and clearly the show’s best moments are with the latter, where he can extend a premise without it feeling redundant. It figures that the sketches should be prominent since Beth McCarthy-Miller, one of the show’s exec producers, is a longtime “SNL” helmer.
Each episode has a theme — the “thing” in the show’s title: In the premiere, the theme is “timing.” Martin offers mostly silly one-liners on the topic, then switches to a skit in which he and guest star Amanda Peet play actors trying to goad each other into a verbal fight. It’s the best part of the episode, and brings the timing premise to life.
Like “Saturday Night Live,” “Important Things” is often hit and miss, but the simplest way for Martin to smooth over the bumps would be to become more comfortable in the stand-up segment. He’s a bit too stiff, and his wide-eyed, unblinking delivery is a distraction. He’d be wise to study “SNL Weekend Update” host Seth Meyers on how to deliver a joke and make it look like you’re having a good time doing it.
Episode two — this time the premise is “power” — is a substantial improvement. The sketches, including a bit about fighting over a parking space, are more inspired and better executed.
Production design is rather simple, on par with a low-budget sketch show.