I’ve never been much of a Zach Galifianakis fan; I’ve never been much of a Louie Anderson fan. Somehow, though, when these two are put together in a mildly insane show, Baskets, about a man, Chip Baskets, hell-bent on making a living as a classically trained (in the French tradition) clown and the humiliations he endures, his crazy family and the cast of characters accompanying him on his life’s rather sad journey, it feels like a meta story within a story (that is, a sad man, desperate to be a clown, living the life of a sad clown). Quite telling about how Chip seems to approach life is that he moves to Paris to fulfill this great dream but never once seems to consider the fact that they speak French in France.
But rarely does Chip realize the absurdity of his own life and the oblivious way he wanders through it. He is self-aware enough to be completely selfish (i.e., he knows what he wants, but never considers the consequences for other people; he is pining for and romanticizing his love with a French woman who uses him while failing to see that he is perpetrating the same kind of blind – and sometimes not so blind – using and abusing of a downtrodden doormat of a Costco employee/insurance agent who gloms onto him, Martha). He actually seems to serve as a mirror for the average thoughtless person. He does things for his mother (brilliantly portrayed by Louie Anderson), not out of duty or kindness but guilt (like most of us do). He does things for himself that he cannot afford and that make no sense just because he wants to and has no self-discipline (like most of us do).
I don’t know quite how, but by the end of the first season, during which I was at a loss most of the time as to what I thought but also could not stop watching – I felt a real emotional connection to the show and its deeply imperfect characters.
Now that it has been over for ages, I don’t remember the finer details I wanted to elaborate on. But the show will be back for a second season. Perhaps then it will become clearer whether this is a masterpiece or just a weird anomaly – or better yet, maybe we will never get a clear picture, and that might be okay.