Comedy Central produces enough misfires that the appeal of those shows that spark to life, a la “Broad City,” is perhaps magnified. So it is with “Big Time in Hollywood, FL,” an infectiously energetic, wonderfully silly serialized comedy that feels like a mashup of the Three Stooges and Quentin Tarantino. Featuring several well-known actors in smallish roles (including producer Ben Stiller and Cuba Gooding Jr. as a hilarious version of himself), the 10-episode order isn’t exactly highbrow, but contains enough laugh-out-loud moments to indeed put co-creators Alex Anfanger and Dan Schimpf well on their way to the big time.
Anfanger (who had a role in Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) and Lenny Jacobson (a “Nurse Jackie” alum) star as brothers Jack and Ben, who are living with, and off, their parents (Stephen Tobolowsky and Kathy Baker) in order to chase their filmmaking dreams, producing perfectly awful little films that they post on YouTube.
Like latter-day versions of Dobie Gillis’ Maynard G. Krebs (“Work!”), their folks’ suggestion that the two move out and get real jobs positively horrifies them, so much so that they begin a series of elaborate lies that lead them down a rabbit hole filled with escalating danger and mayhem.
For starters, they insist that one of them has a drug problem, then engage a method actor (played by Stiller) to pretend to be a drug kingpin and try to shake down their parents to pay the debt. When that goes horribly wrong, Ben actually does have to go into rehab — where he meets the aforementioned Gooding — while mom seeks help from a crusty private detective (Michael Madsen, doing a wonderfully comic impersonation of himself).
And so it goes. Stumbling headlong from one crazy chapter and hare-brained idea to the next, with Ben, Jack and their idiot pal Del (Jon Bass) being such complete morons that everyone assumes they must be part of some massive drug conspiracy. Moreover, the episodes continue to weave in movie parodies and references to the likes of “The Shawshank Redemption,” adding a genuine fondness for film to the proceedings, which build toward Ben and Jack’s involvement with a movie that is, in fact, simply a means of laundering illicit cash.
Mindful of the Comedy Central demo, “Big Time” isn’t exactly lofty in its ambitions, and the writers are a little too enamored with, in particular, erection jokes. Viewers should also be forewarned that there’s some gore in later episodes, although it’s cleverly played for comedic effect.
Anfanger and Schimpf collaborated on the digital series “Next Time on Lonny,” and bring a freshness and student-film-like buoyancy to the approach on this show — essentially constructed as a 10-part half-hour comedy miniseries — which might explain why the various actors who drop in to earnestly play along (among them, in later episodes, Keith David and Paz Vega) look like they’re having such a good time.
“It’s been a bad week,” Jack, the Lucy to Ben’s Ethel, allows at one point, exhibiting a gift for understatement as events continue to spiral out of control.
True enough. But for those prone to lament when Comedy Central fails to deliver on the promise in its name, “Big Time” is a very good show.