Nearly 500 scripted TV series aired in the U.S. and Canada last year, everything from The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family to the recently cancelled Downward Dog, in which “a lonely dog navigates the complexity of 21st century relationships.” Given this rich cornucopia, why would I tell you that you must watch Baskets (FX)? It’s clearly not one of the best shows on TV right now, nowhere close. There’s really only one reason to watch it. And it’s a good one. Named Christine. The show itself has a bare-bones premise. Zach Galifianakis, in his late 40s, plays Chip Baskets, an aspiring clown who has taken up the profession a little late in life. He studied clowning at the “prestigious clown academy” in Paris but had trouble with the lessons as
he didn’t speak French. Returning home to nowheresville, a.k.a. Bakersfield, California, he befriends Martha, an insurance adjuster at Costco, reconnects with his twin brother Dale (get it? Chip & Dale) and the adopted twins, the DJS Cody and Logan. And he moves back in with his mother, Christine. Their relationship is fraught, but not without its tender moments. During Easter Day brunch at the local casino, Chip turns to Christine. “My life’s in disarray right now, Momma,” he says. “Whose isn’t? Whose isn’t?” she replies. The revelation is that veteran comedian Louis Anderson plays Christine, the Baskets family matriarch (her husband, Nathanial died some years before, having “accidentally fallen off a bridge while admiring the river”). How do you get a well-known veteran comedian, weighing some 350 pounds, and turn him into a woman you can’t take your eyes off of? And do it without turning him into a drag grotesquerie? That’s why you should see Baskets. It isn’t perfect. But when it’s good it is sublime.