Baskets is a brilliant, conceptual comedy on FX that was cooked up by Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis, and Jonathan Krisel and has just been renewed for a second season.
It has elevated the sitcom to a whole new level of entertaining thanks to comedian and author Louie Anderson, cast as Christine Baskets.
This comedy is a poignant, heartfelt and riotous examination of family and life. There’s a tinge of a Napoleon Dynamite and Louie tonal vibe going on here.
Meet underachiever Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis) who dreams big, but the actual chip on his shoulder (or lack of self-awareness) blinds him to reality.
After he bombs out of a fancy Lycee Francais for clowns because of the language barrier, he heads back home to Bakersfield, California, the home of The Hag and the rodeo circuit where Cali shitkickers ride and rope.
For Chip, his mother’s approval is a tough road to travel. He’s acutely aware expectations are there, but he insists his artistic dream will pan out despite the odds.
Refusing to back down from his conceptual artistic clown vision, Chip talks his way in while his dismissive green card bride Penelope (Sabina Sciubba) is milking him for the meager earnings he takes in despite the fact his mum Christine sussed her out in the last episode as a trust fund jerk.
It is the role of Christine, who Anderson described to M&C in a previous interview as “a Midwest, American, big-boned, big box store person” that is the heart and soul engine of this show.
Here Monsters and Critics’ Managing Editor April Neale speaks with TV critic and comedic guru, producer and standup, Thomas Attila Lewis, to hash over one of the unexpected comedy triumphs of 2016.
April Neale: Tom, I find these characters all to be deeply bittersweet and complex, especially Louie Anderson’s performance as Christine. He is absolute magic in the scene with Galifianakis’ Chip. Together they make you laugh and rip your heart out.
I feel that Louis CK and Zach Galifianakis have been very generous to him with this role, the scenes he is given and the leeway to incorporate a bit of his own stage act into this character. You’re a comedy expert, what say you?
Tom Lewis: A couple years ago I was fortunate enough to be at the Comedy Store for their 40th-anniversary show where Anderson got up and did a few minutes which gave me a refresher course on his distinctive deadpan style.
It’s that deadpan that he uses to introduce us to Christine, but once we get to know Christine, like Anderson’s stage persona, has a lot of laughs and emotional range.
I do have to say that Galifianakis does hold the lead role on the show, but the producers have been very smart in making the series almost an ensemble piece.
A lot of this has been created through these scenes of longer dialogue, and longer takes, a lot of which is a style I attribute to the director, Jonathan Krisel, whom we know as a series co-creator, and frequent episode director of Portlandia.
AN: I also find the odd characters like the rodeo boss, Eddie (Ernest Adams), who’s not an actor, to be gems…seriously it doesn’t get better than when Christine busts Penelope for being a trust fund baby on the lam from her controlling father.
What are some of your favorite moments so far? For me, the Christine vs. Penelope pool moment and High Noon showdown at the Costco were tops, then the actual Renoir intro where he is full on Marcel Marceau in the bull ring…
TL: Speaking of Ernie Eddie, he had a hilarious moment where I think he went off script and repeated a line a few times and Galifianakis broke character for a second.
I’ve also enjoyed a lot of the solo character building moments for Galifianakis’s Chip, the late-night rollerblading as transportation, staring at the photograph of his wife, passing gas in the “Wonder Twins” room, and many more.
A great ensemble moment was the Easter Brunch, which had, unfortunately, a very familiar uncomfortable feeling, speaking from personal experience.
I have also enjoyed the juxtaposition of the very realistic portrayals of American life at Costco, or the rodeo, for example, against the scenes in Paris, and the surreal departures from reality that are Renoir’s presentation of clowning.
I have a renewed interest in the Paris clown school after Sacha Baron Cohen revealed this week on Marc Maron’s WTFpod that he attended a clown school in Paris for six months at the beginning of his career!
AN: Interesting, this I did not know. On the next episode of Baskets, we meet the African American twins played by real-life twins Garry and Jason Clemmons as Cody and Logan Baskets, and who Louie told me at the Television Critics’ Association winter tour were Christine’s “pride and joy”.
The episode is “DJ Twins” where the official tagline is: “All the free bottled water in the world can’t soften the sting of rejection during an evening with the family.”
Poor Chip, he has to deal with the insufferable Dale Baskets and two overachieving adopted twins:
Baskets Episode 6, DJ Twins, airs tomorrow, February 25, on FX at 10 PM ET/PT.