IFC introduces a new comedy block with Benders and Gigi Does It. The latter fits IFC’s style of off-kilter comedy like Comedy Bang! Bang! and The Spoils Before Dying, while the former would fit in better at a place like FXX. It makes for an odd pairing: Gigi Does It is supremely weird, whereas Benders attempts to stretch a familiar premise into some odd situations.
Benders is advertised as a hockey comedy, but it’s about hockey in the same way The League is about fantasy football. The sport is largely used as a framing device that allows for male camaraderie. Paul Rosenberg (comedian, podcaster, and Guy Code personality Andrew Schulz) is a member of the Chubbys, a rec hockey league he plays on with his buddies who, like on The League, fill specific character traits. Paul’s best friend Anthony (Chris Distefano) is his arrogant chief scheming partner. They’re joined by rich nerd Dickie (Mark Gessner) and stoner Sebalos (Ruy Iskandar). Lindsey Broad has the thankless role of being the sole regular woman in the cast, playing Paul’s wife Karen. Their team, the Chubbys, is terrible, but that matters little when hockey is simply an excuse to get these guys into various scrapes together.
Benders is produced by Denis Leary and his type of humor is all over the show. It’s proudly brash, which is not necessarily a bad thing at first. Benders announces itself loudly and proudly with the first episode where Paul’s grandfather (Breaking Bad’s Mark Margolis) asks Paul to kill him because life is just not worth living anymore. It’s certainly not an expected way for a sitcom to start, witnessing a man wrestle with assisted suicide before the audience even knows who any of the characters that populate this world are. Paul is together enough to have a wife, but not together enough to stop himself from shitting in her purse after a night of excessive drinking.
IFC sent out three episodes of Benders—one in which the gang joins a Christian hockey team and another where they let a female goalie join the Chubbys—that exemplify the problems that Benders has. The Christian hockey team episode leans into every cliché it can, while the female goalie episode tries to swerve out of the ordinary that its plot (a stud horse becomes involved) stops making sense. The latter episode isn’t helped by the fact that women are somewhat of non-entity in the world of Benders, besides Karen who serves to nag Paul. Anthony restricts the other guys from sleeping with the lady-goalie because, “If something goes wrong and she feels like a slut, or you suck at banging” the team will lose their goalie. Anthony, like the other guys, is supposed to be somewhat of a lovable asshole, but that line is indicative of Benders’ overall comedic view.
Gigi Does It, on the other hand, has a higher concept premise compared to the simple guys-hanging-out outline of Benders. David Krumholtz goes full drag as grandmother Gertrude “Gigi” Rotblum. After living a frugal life with her late husband, Gigi learns that his investment in feeding zoo animals has turned into a $6.2 million return. The 76-year-old Gigi is all of a sudden rich—“For 40 years, I lived like a cartoon Russian mouse, but no more,” she says—and her first step is to hire an assistant (Ricky Mabe who serves as co-executive producer and hosted Gigi’s origins on his Weather From site) to look on horrified as Gigi attempts to purchase a gun for her own safety, models nude, and goes to great lengths to get her 9-year-old grandson to call her back (never mind that her grandson’s voicemail message insists that 9/11 was an inside job).
Krumholtz is arresting as Gigi. The effects and makeup, courtesy of makeup effects guru Tony Gardner (Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, Zombieland), completely transform Krumholtz and he feels entirely immersed in this character. Even his hands look like they belong to a bubby who should say words like “punim” a lot. It’s fun to watch him become so fully united with this creation. But it’s what the creation does that’s important. Gigi is of the dirty grandma variety that Betty White has capitalized on for years, although Gigi is considerably dirtier than White. That’s where Gigi Does It fails its character. Gigi’s crassness does not feel naturally a part of her, but rather like it’s forced, and the novelty of an older woman (no matter that she’s being played by a 37-year-old man) saying words like pussy instead of punim wears off. Gigi could be funny enough on her own—her solution to her grandson problem is trying to write a children’s book, a cheap endeavor, “just ask J.K. Simmons who wrote those Harry Potter books”—but giving her a dirty mouth and dirty mind is like a cheap laugh that grows stale, and the goodwill Krumholtz creates with his wonderful character quickly dissipates.
Gigi Does It
Created by: David Krumholtz and Ricky Mabe
Starring: David Krumholtz and Ricky Mabe
Debuts: Thursday, October 1 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern on IFC
Format: Single-camera sitcom
Three episodes watched for review