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I'm Dying Up Here: Pilot Episode Review04 Jun 2017
By Lucas Allen (Web correspondent)
If you’ve read a lot about the life and career of Jim Carrey, you may recognize the earliest part of his career was dedicated to the 1970s when he was a struggling stand-up comedian. The new Showtime series "I'm Dying Up Here" reflects on the Los Angeles comedy scene during that time. The show just premiered on Sunday night, so here’s a lowdown on the Pilot episode and see if it measure up to anybody’s expectations.
The first episode sets up both the characters and what the show is about. The show revolves around a group of stand-up comedians working at The Cellar, a club owned by the brassy Goldie (Oscar winner Melissa Leo). There’s club favorite Bill (Andrew Santino) and struggling newcomer Adam (RJ Cyler). There’s also the ambitious lone female comedian from Texas named Cassie (Ari Graynor) and loose cannon Edgar (Al Madrigal). The veteran comics include Vietnam vet Ralph (Erik Griffin) and zany Sully (Stephen Guarino). Finally, two comics from Boston named Ron (Clark Duke) and Eddie (Michael Angarano) who moved to LA for the big time.
In the episode, rising comic Clay (Sebastian Stan better known as The Winter Soldier from the current Marvel movies) committed suicide the night after his appearance on Johnny Carson (Dylan Baker). This affected the club’s residents mostly Cassie who had a past relationship with him. Meanwhile, Ron and Eddie moved to LA thanks to a close encounter with Clay. But after his death, they ended up in The Cellar with living quarters relegated to a closet. With a memorial on the way, Cassie has to face Clay’s Catholic parents (guest stars Robert Forster and Cathy Moriarty) struggling to decide if she has to tell them the truth about their son’s death. The episode also has guest star Alfred Molina as a mediocre talent manager.
Carrey who executive produced the show seem to have a strong influence on the show from the setting to the life of a struggling comic. The 1970s Los Angeles look authentic with colorful costumes and wonderful production design kinda similar to Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. For an hour long show, a lot of work was put into it very well. Plus, the writers do a good job coming up with different ways stand-up comics experience during that time including coming up with good jokes and handling a heckling crowd. Now you can see how young comics at the time like Carrey, Richard Pryor, and Robin Williams went through to get where they’re going.
The acting is pretty good especially from the leading newcomers who brought different personalities for the show. Lead star Leo adds feisty appeal, while the guest stars bring something different each episode. The biggest problem is the un-likability of some of the characters that may affect those who wanted to watch the show beyond the first episode. Some of these characters tend to get needlessly angry and frustrated to each other that it could be hard enough to get viewers to latch onto them.
Overall, the Pilot is a fine start to the series that will appeal to both retro lovers and fans of stand-up comedy and its history. If it still interests you based on Carrey’s history, it’s worth a watch. However, you may either watch one or two more episodes or the whole first season depending on your personal mood. It’s unclear if Carrey himself will make a cameo in an episode, but he would make an interesting appearance if desired.
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