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TV Picks: 'True Detective,' 'Review,' 'Hudson Valley Ballers'

February 28, 2014|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

"Hudson Valley Ballers" (Above Average/YouTube). Longtime "Saturday Night Live" writers Paula Pell and James Anderson star in this six-episode Web series, which went up in December on Above Average, the YouTube home of Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video. The series finds the two running a "bed and brunch" in the Hudson Valley, that dreamland north of New York City; as the comic and sometimes-surreal embodiment of a friendship, it is a little like "Portlandia," and there, as here, the stars play themselves and put on costumes to play others -- a geriatric theater couple rehearsing a magic act in rocking chairs, a couple of hipsters disdaining their coffee, women in attendance at the Hers-don Valley Fem-posium. (It has a "Twin Peaks" vibe as well.)

All the installments together last less than half an hour, but each has an episodic integrity -- something less than a sitcom, but something more than a sketch. A lot of things happen without seeming to be happening fast. "Truth Basset" (Episode 3) begins with the two being hurtfully honest (when you hold the dog, you have to speak the truth), moves into a choreographic workout ("Paula, your jazz pops have got to be crisper"), incorporates a song, moves on to a walk in the woods, which leads them to a horse ("It's a stallion, we must tame it with our kindness"), horse whispering, jealousy over horse whispering, and then back to the Truth Bassets. ("Looking back," says Paula to James, "I'm glad we were not sexually compatible in college; I'm glad you're my friend." Then she tries to make out with him.)

Paul Rudd and Kate McKinnon star in the first and final episodes as love interests (Rudd: his, McKinnon: hers). He is Tampa St. Pete, first identified as "the local drifter," later as an Olive Garden mural painter and porn voice-over artist; she is "Just Jamie," who, says Paula, dissembling, "just helps me with general things and various stuff and so on and the like." Their breakup -- excuse the spoiler -- is a splendidly overwrought dance of comic melodrama. There is also a disappearing little girl, who is also a doll, and spooky.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesTVLloyd

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