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The Life and Times of Tim (2008- )

by on 2010/03/06

They laughed, oh how they laughed.  But who’s laughing now?  Years ago I cancelled my cable TV subscription and met an incredible backlash.  The TV addicts’ knowing refrain of “Just wait…!” suggested I’d return in short order.  Thanks to a basic human disregard for copyright — and the slow-but-growing savvy of content controllers — clips from the animated series, Life and Times of Tim, have long been available online.  The net as both a filter mechanism and an addiction enabler has made cable utterly redundant.

Now, if I lived in Tim’s world, giving up television would have been someone else’s idea.  I would have put up some resistance before ultimately giving in.  I’d endure an arduous cancellation process, and TV’s absence would make my life dreadfully uncomfortable.

A weak-willed everyman of average intelligence and spotty moral fiber, Tim suffers perhaps the worst luck since Frank Grimes met the Simpsons.  A typical episode places Tim in an awkward situation where conflicting social pressures twist him mercilessly.

A common narrative convention rewards incompetence against all odds:  Inspector Clouseau, Mr. Bean, and pretty much anything featuring Mike Myers.  The Life and Times of Tim inverts that approach.  Like Alfred Hitchcock boiling a toad, here an average person finds disaster by inches, unless it finds him first.  Fortunately for us, Tim finds the humour, not horror, in such situations, for he is never quite broken.  He is ever-ready for the next poor decision.

The show manages to stake out a satisfying position at the junction of Born Loser Boulevard and Protracted Discomfort Way.  Tim is more than an animated Curb Your Enthusiasm, however.  Unlike Curb’s Larry David, Tim has an incorrigible faith in the sincerity of his advisors, and is repeatedly flummoxed when that faith is proven misplaced.

And once the mistakes are made, The Life and Times of Tim exaggerates their aftermath, drawing them out with the extended pauses you’d find in The Office and the films of Christopher Guest.  While the show somewhat resembles Odd Job Jack in its aesthetics and philosophy, it approaches its subject matter in a very different, more understated manner, wherein mute astonishment is its own soliloquy.

With luck we’ll feel relieved not to recognize ourselves in Tim, over and over again.  While any one episode is largely like another, the formula works well and has yet to wear out its welcome.  Its minimalist animation and deliberate pacing, its spaces and silence, all serve it well.  It’s one of the best shows I never needed a TV to discover.

* * * *

Rated 14A for language, adult situations, and (animated) nudity

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  1. Favourite TV on Video (2010) « Geek vs Goth

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