There’s no point in crossing every politically-correct line ever drawn for the sake of shock factor alone. Too often, sitcoms that want to be new and outrageous think that stringing together a half-assed plot with as much profanity as possible is all the work they need to put in.
Only a standout series can take exceptionally crass vulgarity and skillfully finagle the obvious denial and throwaway laughs into unsuspecting, should-I-even-laugh-at-this humor. FX’s new half-hour comedy, “Legit,” plays perfectly into this dynamic, pulling cautious snickers from every uncensored line out of Jim Jefferies’s mouth.
A successful stand-up comedian before partnering with FX, à la Louis C.K., Jefferies essentially plays an overblown version of himself in front of the camera. Still, the delivery is spot-on and Jefferies, who looks like Ricky Gervais’s mellowed-out twin (the series does have an odd similarity to “Life’s Too Short”), makes the comedy look effortless — a mean feat for a pilot.
As proven with “Louie” and “The League,” FX knows how to work with comedians in an outside-the-cookie-cutter approach to sitcoms. And while “Legit” doesn’t have the maturity of an established comedy yet, it certainly showcases good bones. The non-stop, say-anything crudeness never becomes a crutch, and typical beginning-of-series stumbles are the only things that drag the premiere down.
The loose premise of the series plays out in the first two minutes, with Jefferies’s mother’s plea for him to legitimize himself before she dies, a task he takes as seriously as he’s able. The pilot focuses on his first “legit” good deed: honoring his best friend’s brother Billy’s (DJ Qualls) request to get laid for the first time — a unique request as Billy is 32 and at an advanced stage of muscular dystrophy. Jefferies takes this all in stride (mostly) and manages to make the strenuous search for the perfect hooker seem awkwardly heroic. The parting sequence, complete with an extremely satiated looking Billy rolling out while fun.’s “Carry On” blasts in the background, certainly comes off as inspirational.
There’s no doubt that, as with most of FX’s programming, “Legit” is an acquired taste. It’s not for everyone, and will inevitably offend more than its fair share. But, as FX proves time and again, even vile, boorish nastiness is palatable when there’s the tiniest bit of heart shining through.
It’s that heart, more than unconventional formats and lengthy pauses, that pushes “Legit” past ordinary. Sure, Jefferies is a selfish, useless stoner with a bad habit of saying whatever the hell he wants, but the audience can tell he actually cares about Billy. That is, for more than just the handicapped parking space and unlimited wingman potential. And that’s nice. Nice enough to make a road trip to an out-of-the-way dive bar into a surprisingly poignant moment of male bonding. It might even provoke a reluctant smile.
In true FX style, buried beneath all the male posturing and obvious dick jokes is a series that might just make you feel something. And hey, the dick jokes can be fun too.