LEGIT: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Jim Jefferies as JIM JEFFERIES
Dan Bakkedahl as STEVE NUGENT
DJ Qualls as BILLY NUGENT
Mindy Sterling as JANICE NUGENT
Sonya Eddy as RAMONA
Created by: Jim Jefferies, Peter O’Fallon
BY KEVIN CARR
There was a joke in the film “Swingers” in which one of the characters suggests that he came to Hollywood thinking they were handing out sit coms to stand up comedians at the county line. I’m not suggest that is the case now (or ever), but if you’re a decent enough comedian with an HBO special under your belt, it’s not a bad way to edge into series television.
The latest stand-up comedian with a series is Australian Jim Jefferies, who has launched his series “Legit” after a successful spot on HBO. Before I move any further, I have to give him credit for naming the series something other than “Jim!” or “Jefferies.” Eponymous TV shows are such cliches now. (Apologies to Louis CK, of course.)
In “Legit,” Jefferies (of course) plays an exaggerated version of himself. After being taken down a notch by his mother, he decides to go legit, or rather have a greater impact on life than just being a stand-up comic. His goal is to do some nice things for other people, which (again, of course) has humorous consequences.
Sure, the premise is a bit reminiscent of “My Name Is Earl,” without all the talk of karma and fictional characters. However, it isn’t much like it at all, to the degree that I never even made this connection until I had to rattle off an explanation of the show.
Much of the material – especially in the earlier episodes and particularly the pilot – come straight out of Jefferies’ HBO special. As the season moves on, there’s more unique writing with more directed humor. And, unexpectedly, the show actually has a certain amount of heart.
The good deeds that Jefferies undertakes first manifest themselves in a way to help his boyhood friend Billy (DJ Qualls) have a normal life. Stricken with MS and wheelchair bound, Billy is given a chance to have some fun – from visiting a prostitute in Las Vegas to trying his hand at online dating. Also along for the ride is Steve (Dan Bakkedahl), Billy’s brother, who has his own hang-ups and problems.
The subject matter of “Legit” is a potential bear trap, dealing with politically incorrect elements like disabilities and mental retardation (embodied by some of Billy’s friends he knows from rehab). It’s not uncommon for a stand-up comedian to refuse to shy away from such topics, to the point of making them the focus of his shtick. However, things are handled well in “Legit,” and it’s only offensive on the surface.
At the heart of “Legit,” when you strip away all the sexual jokes and brash behavior, there’s a true respect for those with more-than-average struggles in the world. Even beyond the characters with mental and physical impairments, the show tackles other tricky subjects, like if your elderly parents are having relationship problems, or if someone you know is a hoarder.
In fact, the times the show has the biggest problems staying even are the moments that you would expect would be typical from a stand-up comedian’s spotlight show. I know that Jefferies sees himself as a cad and a scoundrel, but his ability to land attractive women (which is often the case with confident comics) seem too trite for the otherwise progressive show presented.
Like the other shows in FX’s stable, “Legit” takes pride in its edginess, which makes it fun. However, it’s the unique storylines the characters allow and the heart behind them that makes the series work.
The two-disc DVD set comes with all first-season episodes, including a director’s cut of the pilot, which includes a different lead-in and set-up for the series. There’s also commentaries on all the episodes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, an autotune of the character Rodney and a supercut of Jefferies bits from his stand-up that have been injected into the show’s dialogue.