[For The Jim Gaffigan Show‘s “Pilot” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Jim Gaffigan juggles family, fatherhood, comedy and food.
If you know the comedian Jim Gaffigan then you already know the premise of his new half hour sitcom. He’s a version of himself, a comedian and father of five living in a tiny Manhattan two bedroom. A delicious blend of self deprecation, food love, quirky but believable friends, and solid jokes – this is one of those where-have-you-been-all-my-life sitcoms… Especially if you have kids.
Gaffigan has a familiar voice and comfortable manner that makes this show feel like sweatpants. You know this guy. You love this guy. You might even BE this guy. Either way, somebody has sweatpants on in this scenario.
As the “Pilot” begins we see Gaffigan leaving his onstage life as a stand up and returning home to his lovely wife Jeannie and five children (a blonde brood of far-too-young-to-know-better types). He describes what this level of parenting feels like perfectly:
“Imagine you’re drowning… and then somebody hands you a baby.”
This description — along with lots of other info in the “Pilot” — we get via Jim’s voice over narration, not a preferred method in most shows, but it’s Gaffigan and he’s hilarious. Another reason it works: It’s an opportunity for us to hear him do standup while the show still delivers that sweatpants comfort of a story in sitcom format.
Right after that drowning joke Jim’s wife — a “shiite Catholic” — tells him she’s pregnant and we, the viewers, get pulled right into the underwater feeling too. Thanks, Jim! He handles the news better than most would, and she’s clearly thrilled about it. But somehow, despite her infinite predilection to procreate, Jeannie stays likable – could be because she has the whole “shiite Catholic” excuse… Or maybe it’s because he so clearly loves her and Jim’s good people.
Next we meet Dave (Adam Goldberg), Jim’s friend and fellow comedian who hears the pregnancy news and immediately tells Jim he needs a vasectomy. Gaffigan reacts to this suggestion as most owners of gonads do, with horror and revulsion. The precious, etc. But then in the next scene Jeannie isn’t really pregnant and they’re talking about looking at bigger apartments. Things are looking up.
Turns out they’ve been looking for a bigger apartment for many years and Jeannie’s ex is a broker, Daniel (Michael Ian Black), who seems to always be happy to show them places for years and years even though they never make an offer. If you know anything about NYC real estate then you know it’s the least realistic aspect of this sitcom, a show about a family of seven living in a tiny two bedroom.
But then Jim tells Jeannie about the vasectomy suggestion and she says, “Like that would ever happen.” He can’t even stand the pain of a nail clipper, etc. Uh oh, big mistake, wife. Never issue a challenge such as this. Gaffigan gets haughty, his machismo deeply offended. He nibbles a cracker and insists he’s going to see a urologist about the procedure. The mission is set. She simply can’t always be right about him. He won’t stand for it.
The best part of the episode is in the urologist’s office where Jim ends up despite his best efforts to head in every other direction. His whole family, kids and all, shows up for his appointment. Jeannie even brings along the broker, Daniel. Jim’s good buddy Dave is there to support him and also ask for a free penicillin sample with perfect timing. Guest star Fred Armisan is just right as Dr. Weiss, a urologist accustomed to never even finishing an explanation of what the procedure is before guys shut down the whole vasectomy idea.
Turns out Jeannie pulls the kids out of the consult when Dr Weiss pulls down the penis chart so, all alone for the explanation, it takes approximately ten seconds of actual consultation before Jim says no way, Jose. Then he sits awhile in the office just prove that he considered it. He bluffs straight through until the end of the episode, pretending to be getting a vasectomy in the hopes that his wife doesn’t know him as well as she thinks. But, surprise surprise, she does. So, there’s that. Then it turns out he knows her pretty well too and she’s the real reason they can’t settle on a new apartment. She’s sentimental about the apartment where her babies were born and he’s sentimental about the sack where they originated. They’re two peas in a pod.
Even with the implausible real estate broker relationship this is a great NYC show. In the “Pilot” alone there’s Katz’s deli, multiple Shake Shack references, a scene on an actual subway car, and in a genuine city playground. The kids play a surprisingly small role in the show, with few appearances and almost no lines. This is a good choice because the show’s really all about Jim and his particularly hysterical world. Jim loves his family, food, and NYC even with all the extreme limitations therein and that’s the sweet spot where all the funny stuff lives. It’s a rare pilot that’s already establishes such a self assured and consistent voice but that’s because this is true blue Jim Gaffigan and we all know that guy. We love that guy.