TV review: Baskets, FOX (4 stars)

TV review: Baskets, FOX

Zach Galifianakis dreams of being a classical clown in this absurd and strangely beautiful offbeat sitcom

Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis) dreams of being Renoir the clown. He follows the French tradition of clowning where absurdity is an art form. Routinely ignored and scorned while studying in Paris he finds himself broke and working the rodeo circuit in his home town of Bakersfield, California. A square peg desperately trying to cram himself into a round hole.

Many of the best US comedies at the moment aren't always laugh out loud funny. Shows like Girls, Louis, High Maintenance or Maron are about creating a reality that dissects the comedy of the everyday. A world away from the staid sitcom format of set-ups and gags, they're character studies that drift into amusing territory. The jokes are given more weight by the depth of emotion and realism. Created by Galifianakis, Louis CK and Jonathan Krisel (Portlandia), Baskets hits a sweet spot with a strangely beautiful lyricism.

The premise might sound ridiculous, but Galifianakis plays it completely straight. After Chip's dreams are crushed he finds some nobility in failure taking a Juggalo under his wing in the second episode. Galifianakis does fall into his usual man child persona but there's a sadness underpinning his ineptitude. He also adds another level playing Chip's twin brother, Dale, a slick, unpleasant jerk who runs a shonky college. There's a wonderful supporting cast including Martha Kelly as an insurance agent who becomes entangled in Chip's life after a scooter accident while Louie Anderson claims the best laughs as his mother (and picked up an Emmy for the role).

The creators have labelled Baskets a 'slapstick drama', which perfectly nails its mix of sadness and pratfalls. Dark and uncomfortable at times, a melancholy comedy that asks if you can really laugh at the tears of a clown when you have seen the man behind the makeup.

Baskets starts on FOX UK, Thu 13 Apr, 10.30pm.

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