Three minutes into the second season of HBO's animated The Life and Times of Tim, a bearded, forever downtrodden Tim (showrunner and mastermind Steve Dildarian) stands on a box next to a significantly more disheveled homeless man. Tim, set adrift by his break-up with Amy (Mary Jane Otto), has grown out his beard in an attempt to...well, even he can't articulate it particularly well. With a cadre of coworkers and his nameless boss (Peter Giles) presiding over the two men, a judgment is made - the homeless guy, with his scruffy beard and shredded clothing, is clearly better put together than Tim. As Tim's meek, nearly deadpan protests are cast aside, you may get a definite inkling whether this show is to your liking.
The animated offering from HBO fits snugly into the network's programming block - as my colleague Jason Bailey stated in his review, Dildarian's awkward (and intentionally awkwardly animated) brainchild shares more in common with the overblown social fiascos of Curb Your Enthusiasm than its animated brethren. There's minimal gags here and no punny cutaways - instead, Dildarian sets his flawed protagonist out into the world and lets the world take a bite out of him. Unlike Larry David's twisted lead, Tim doesn't lack moral fiber, just the capacity to utilize it properly. Prone to saying the wrong thing or contributing the worst observation at the worst possible time, he is relatable and inspires little animosity even as he dips a toe or a whole foot into the waters of selfishness or jealousy. Outfitted with Dildarian's uniquely disinterested voice, Tim is riding shotgun in his own life.
Each episode consists of two 13-15 minute vignettes, always centering on Tim and always briskly shifting his everyday life into a series of increasingly uncomfortable events. Familiar faces from the first season abound, including Amy, who appears as herself and in a vastly different incarnation that I won't spoil here. Several celebrities lend their voices, but the spotlight never shifts over to them. A terrific cameo that becomes a recurring role is Becky, voiced by the terrific Melanie Lynskey, who since The Informant! has experienced a low-key career resurgence.
There's no laugh track to tell you how to feel so you're left soaking in the excellent timing of the cast - a silence is frequently funnier than the joke that follows it and the frequent overlapping dialogue can reach a point where it's hard to tell whether its scripted or a terrific riff. Plots typically stay earth-bound and not too ludicrous, courtesy of Dildarian and a host of writers. Going back to Mr. Bailey for a moment, he described the show as "low-key hilarity," and that is a perfectly acceptable way of viewing The Life and Times of Tim. It'll never go overboard and it will also rarely disappoint.
The show keeps the same 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen from Season 1, but as Dildarian in a making-of featured on the DVD, their budget has grown somewhat so there's a bit more to work with. As a result, the show looks slightly more detailed, though the general palette still features fairly muted colors, but its more of feature of Tim's (and our) drab world. Detail is minimal but what's there is free of artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix continues the proud tradition of excellent sound mixing on a show that looks pedestrian at best. That's part of the charm though, and the mix is pretty excellent, with crisp and clear dialogue but also great background work that really brings the more lively place, like a casino floor inhabited by the elderly to coughing, wheezing, shuffling life.
It's disappointing but perhaps understandable that the only extra feature would be "The Making Of The Life And Times Of Tim," a brief but generally informative featurette that highlights the creative process via interviews with the cast. A couple of interesting tidbits this writer learned from it include the fact that the cast records all together in a sound room and that a good amount of work goes into making the mouth animation match the words. It's not noticeable until you hear Dildarian talk about and then you can obsessively rewatch to see the mouth-art at play. Or not. If you have better things to do with your time.
The Life and Times of Tim: The Complete Second Season deserves a look, and then some. Not that HBO is an arbiter for good television, but there's a reason why the show has been renewed for a third season, which I believe premieres tonight. It's funny, unforced and satisfying - the tidbit delivery also helps, since some stories just run out of anywhere to go, so closing on an awkward note is a delight that you learn to wait for. Recommended.
The best of the five boroughs is now represented. Brooklyn in the house! I'm a hardworking film writer, blogger, boyfriend and hopeful Corgi owner. Find me on Twitter @markzhur and on Tumblr at Our Elaborate Plans...