Wry, silly and politically incorrect in the extreme, “The Life and Times of Tim” takes HBO squarely into Adult Swim territory. Viewed alone, in small doses the show can be pretty damn funny — a mix of minimalist animation, wildly absurd situations and understated voice work a la “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.” It’s just that there’s a serious glut of cheap animation for young guys, and while “Tim” is better than most, the current surplus blunts its appeal. Still, if selling HBO amounts to a demographic quilt, this youthful patch fits nicely along the lines of “Flight of the Conchords.”
Never raising his voice above a monotonous drone, Tim stumbles from one bizarre, frequently humiliating interlude to another. In the premiere, for example, his girlfriend Amy (Mary Jane Otto) and her parents show up for dinner, only to find an unpaid prostitute in his living room. The second story features Tim attending a co-worker’s bachelor party, fabricating an elaborate lie to make the evening sound more fun than it was — only to see that insanely backfire.
Written, produced and directed by Steve Dildarian (an advertising creative who also provides Tim’s voice), each episode is wisely divided into two shorts, since none of these bits possesses the heft to last longer than 12 minutes (and in a few cases, even that’s a stretch). Still, Tim’s world is so consistently outlandish as to be difficult to resist, especially since Dildarian plays the whole thing with the understatement of Bob Newhart’s old phone routines.
Basically, two recurring plots run through the show: Tim gets into embarrassing spots involving Amy; and Tim’s boss (Peter Giles) keeps insisting that Tim do ridiculous things, like accompanying his teenage daughter to the prom or pleading guilty to defiling the rug so the boss’s dog doesn’t have to take the fall.
Adult Swim — sister Turner channel Cartoon Network’s latenight block — has mined this same lode both visually and tonally, but with such uneven results that anybody who isn’t chronically stoned (and all evidence to the contrary, I’m actually not) can easily feel left out or unhip for failing to recognize non sequiturs as creative genius.
This Web-centric genre of bite-sized comedy has had a corrosive effect on TV, as humor is increasingly dissected into formats that play only to the small room they’re in — and thus are viable only if produced for a pittance. In that respect, “Tim” is very much a child of our heavily subdivided life and times.