Legit began as a show about Australian comic Jim Jefferies trying to be a better person. Over its first season, Jim tried, succeeded, and even celebrated. “Fatherhood,” though, demonstrates he didn’t really want it all in the first place.
That’s a hell of a thing to learn about the character anchoring your show, but there it is. Good people have responsibilities, and when faced with one of the biggest ones he encounters in the season, Jim shirks. He’s asked to consider, just for a moment, that Billy is going to need him now more than ever. Wendy, the prostitute who took Billy’s virginity in the pilot, returns nearly nine months pregnant with his child. “Phew, at least it’s not mine!” Jim says, verbally and with every single mannerism known to man. But part of him knows that, as Billy’s self-appointed caretaker, that baby is his.
To be fair, Jim embraces a small part of this surrogate fatherhood. When Janice balks at the idea of Billy knocking up a prostitute, she retreats to her hoarding domain of boxes and plush toys, refusing even to entertain the idea of being a grandmother to this thing—and refusing to even tell Walter, stranded in his tent, why she is angry. Billy rarely needs Janice’s nagging doubt, but Jim realizes Billy needs everything right now, even if it might ultimately be a pain in the ass. So he takes it upon himself to visit Janice and show her the photo of the ultrasound, uncluttering her heart just a little bit.
Jim also stands beside Billy at the baby shower—Janice’s idea—and tries to help everyone have a good time. He’s a comedian after all, and is therefore legally required to tell jokes anytime someone wants to hear one (or so is my understanding). He’s not really needed, though. Every character that’s appeared on Legit thus far is in attendance, doing their thing. Rodney hits on women, Ramona’s son chugs champagne. It’s a chance for us all to hang out with these people one last time before the season break, and the script ensures everyone gets in a line or two. And looking around, I realize that most of these people never broke out of those one or two lines.
Legit ambitiously tried to make its first season about character development in spite of its jokes and comedic roots. That’s all well and good, but the balance just wasn’t there. In each episode I covered (and yes, you’re not crazy—I stopped a few episodes ago), Jim was also given a chance to deliver some stand-up material, which distracted from the drama or groundedness of the scenes. It’s tough to have it both ways. Shows like 30 Rock can develop likeable people out of total scumbags because they are aware they’re the butt of every joke. Parks And Recreation will sacrifice a joke in favor of a sweet moment. Legit walked that odd middle ground, and felt stilted, like your coworker doing stand-up for the first time and obviously mimicking what he thinks stand-up comedy should sound like. Thus, this scene at the baby shower, ostensibly a farewell for now to the major players of Legit, just highlights how little ground the show has covered this season.
There was only one character who was ever allowed to advance his own story at his own pace, and that was Billy. No matter what, he was in every episode, so just by virtue of seeing him all the time, I grew to really care about him. It helped that DJ Qualls can turn on the sweetness.
“Fatherhood” is his story. When the rest of the characters find out Wendy’s baby is black, thus making Billy not the father, they breathe a sigh of relief. Jim rushes out into the waiting room and announces it to the world. Even Janice takes a moment to thank her lucky stars. Only Billy remains, back in the delivery room. He was about to propose to this woman, bearing his child. That’s what a normal person wants to do, and it’s extremely rare for somebody like Billy to feel normal. Legit never sugar-coated the difficulties of being Billy—besides giving him a huge cock, which I dunno if that’s the norm but if it is, SO BE IT—and so it’s extra heartbreaking to know that his ability to not be Billy, even for a second, was probably so exhilarating.
Otherwise, Legit is a bunch of normal people feeling normal about normal things, silenced any time Jim wants to speak or deliver material. There’s very little forward momentum, and that’s fine so long as the people on the show are interesting enough to ground it. Legit never really gave them that chance, preoccupying itself with humanizing the mythos of Jim Jefferies. He was never the most likeable person on the show, but he was never the least likeable person, either. And that middle ground doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Still, the show took a risk. Jefferies is a great comic without an American audience behind him, and all signs are pointing to Legit having a decent run on FXX. Dan Bakkedahl got a regular job, and we all enjoyed the pleasure of hanging with one of the guys from Cheers. And Rodney got laid. The real surprise, though, was that the first season never quite figured out what to do with Jim Jefferies.