Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Idiotsitter sacrifices a character to save the show

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Maybe Idiotsitter has been a few steps ahead of me this whole time. Maybe all the reservations I’ve had up to this point will be addressed head-on by the show, which has grown stronger and stronger in its sense of self-awareness. After all, for the past two weeks, I’ve complained about Chet and how the character would probably never work. Then tonight, Idiotsitter kills Chet. Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse knew. They knew all along.

“Funeral” smashes together two sitcom tropes—a funeral and a road trip—and makes for the show’s funniest and most insightful episode yet. From the second Billie and Gene were established as their respective types in the pilot, it became very certain that they would eventually pick up some of each other’s habits or even undergo a complete role reversal that would bring new facets of their personalities to the surface and show them they’re not that different after all. That role reversal happens in “Funeral,” and the way it’s executed plays with our expectations and even comes from a weirdly compelling emotional place. Chet dies in a high-stakes game of “Boo” (Chet Killed Yesterday, reads Gene’s custom shirt, coupled with a black leather hat that just says FUNERAL), and his death brings Billie and Gene closer.

Killing off Chet is genius, really. It’s an easy move that accomplishes a lot. For starters, Chet had to go. The character simply wasn’t funny in a sustainable way. The only way to properly heighten his stupidity was to make him so dumb that he got himself killed. Getting hit by a truck was the perfect punchline for Chet. But his death also works on a deeper level, because it allows Bell and Newhouse to pull off an episode rooted in real emotions without veering too dark or too depressing. As an audience, we don’t miss Chet. But Gene really does, and that makes room for some emotional intelligence that the character hasn’t really showcased until now. Of course, her feelings manifest in the most Gene of ways

And for Billie, the funeral brings back traumatic memories of getting trapped in a casket with her dead grandmother. It’s a silly scenario, but the anxiety and dread Billie feels is very real and grounds the character’s actions in relatable emotion. Billie gets drunk on boxed wine-juice (“pairing suggestions: luke warm lentil soup”), forcing Gene to be the idiotsitter this time around. They don’t completely become each other. Rather, it’s a pretty believable look at what Gene would be like as the “responsible” one and what Billie would be like as the wild child. They’re still themselves, but the dynamic between the two women has shifted. Things will inevitable be back in place next week, but even just this brief role reversal effectively develops the characters and their relationship. Gene and Billie still aren’t really friends, but their relationship has more to it than just the idiot and the idiotsitter. In “Funeral,” they have to help each other out, and it’s funny and even a little touching.

Of course, Idiotsitter doesn’t lose its screwball voice even in those touching moments. Billie and Gene project all of their anxieties onto a dead coyote on the side of the road…a dead coyote that they then rent a tux for so they can all attend the funeral in tuxes together. It’s ridiculous enough to land the laughs, but it doesn’t swallow up the sweeter side of the episode. Billie talks about Gene’s big heart in her quasi-eulogy, and the episode certainly earns that more sentimental moment. And all of Gene’s stops along the way to the funeral weren’t just so she could make use of her time off house arrest with childish activities. The snacks from the gas station, the croutons from Panera (or “Panara”) Bread, and the ceramic plate turned out to all be for Chet. That’s strong payoff for little details that were initially funny for just seeming random. But there was more to it, just like there’s more than meets the eye with Idiotsitter. It took Chet dying for me to see that.

Stray observations

  • “Wait was Gunther there? Because it doesn’t count if he wasn’t.”
  • When Bell gets to do some of the more subtle comedy, it’s often even funnier than when she’s just being Gene in full-crazy mode. The different responses she cycles through after Billie asks “can I tell you something?” was my favorite joke of the episode.
  • Billie would be good at reciting all of the states backwards in an Anthony Hopkins in Legends Of The Fall voice—even while hammered.
  • “Loaf poon”
  • “Way to go Chet. Way to bust out of this skin prison.”
  • “We’re going to a funeral! We ate soup! We’re in suits!” Where is the studio version of this song?