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TV review: Jim Jefferies is smart and irritating in 'Legit' on FX

Australian comic Jim Jefferies plays himself in aspirational mode in the male-oriented 'Legit' on FX.

January 17, 2013|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • D.J. Qualls, left, Dan Bakkedahl and Jim Jefferies in FX's "Legit."
D.J. Qualls, left, Dan Bakkedahl and Jim Jefferies in FX's "Legit." (FX )

Australian comic Jim Jefferies, who worked for years out of England and is known in the U.S. for some HBO comedy specials and whatever else winds up on YouTube, is now the star of his own American situation comedy, "Legit," in which he plays Australian comic Jim Jefferies.

It premieres Thursday on FX, which is home to the best television series starring a stand-up comedian as himself, Louis C.K.'s "Louie," and to "Wilfred," which, like "Legit," features an Australian (Jason Gann) playing a disruptive but liberating force. Like most of the network's comedies, it is, for better or worse, about Men and How They See Things.

Jefferies' comedy is by turn smart, obvious, thoughtful and irritating, and quite as much may be said of his series — though his stage demeanor (loud, brash and in control) is softened considerably here by dint of his being a character living among other characters: There is nothing in the series as autocratically direct as, "Here's the thing about people that believe in God: They're idiots," to take a line from his stand-up, or "Learning difficulty — that's the definition of stupid"; and though some of his routines have been imported straight into the show, what can sound accusing and superior from the stage plays in the sitcom as half-grasped and human.

VIDEO: Winter TV preview

Indeed, the premise of "Legit," such as it has one, is that, at 35 and going a bit to seed, Jim might need to work on himself a little. It starts with his (offstage) mother's desire to see him be "more legitimate or something": "To my mum, I'm a disappointment, I'm a drunk idiot," he admits. "Maybe she's right." Good deeds, of a sort, shall follow.

Much of Jefferies' comedy unapologetically involves misadventures with drugs and alcohol, and at first he keeps his eyes slightly out of focus, to suggest a semi-permanent state of half-befuddled, half-insightful intoxication.

"What are you, high?" asks roommate Steve (Dan Bakkedahl) when Jim declares himself ready to help Steve's brother, Billy (DJ Qualls), lose his virginity. Billy suffers from muscular dystrophy, is more or less paralyzed from the waist down, and living in a nursing home.

"A little, yeah."

And so there is a road trip, marked by that certain (particularly male) sentimentality that disguises itself as a lack of sentiment, even as the editing and the framing and the soundtrack all direct you to feel warm. Similarly, Jim's willingness to treat Billy with a little disrespect — to not handle him with kid gloves — is presented as a kind of respect: a form of understanding.

Women are less well understood. In its first episodes, at least, the female characters tend toward prostitutes (nice), shrill authority figures (not so nice) or some form of sexual possibility: "When you're out and about and you see a group of young ladies, always hit on the ugly girl first," Jim advises Steve, in order to get the cuter girls to respect him. In what proportion we're to take this as a comment on how women are — it does work — or a reflection on the character who believes it is not completely clear.

VIDEO: Winter TV preview

Still, this is meant to be a show about change, and as it goes on, there are hints of growth.

"I've gone further than anyone with my looks or intellect should have ever gone and I'm miserable because of bloody dreams," Jim complains, adapting a stage routine about the difference between reach and grasp and the dangerous lie that you can get what you want if you want it enough. But "Legit," which is aspirational almost in spite of itself, goes some way in converting that darkness to light.

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'Legit'

Where: FX

When: 10:30 p.m. Thursday

Rating: TV-MA-LS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17, with advisories for coarse language and sex)

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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