“Gigi Does It” is a show few, if any, would expect to be good. Featuring a crass grandmother played by a comedian in drag, “Gigi” does not appear at first take to have the makings of success; however, in a twist that would put M. Night Shyamalan to shame, “Gigi Does It,” though flawed, is actually entertaining. The show follows the elderly Gigi, masterfully portrayed by executive producer and star David Krumholtz, after she receives an unexpected inheritance in the wake of her husband’s death. Gigi’s brash but lovable personality steals the show, but in doing so weakens the characterization of her supporting cast and places a heavy burden on her shoulders.
While certainly not the first show to feature a rude grandma, David Krumholtz takes a played-out trope and brings it to life. Using his own grandmother as inspiration, Krumholtz painstakingly fleshes out every detail of Gigi’s mannerisms. Each step Gigi takes is believably the waddle of a woman with too many ailments to count (though she tries frequently throughout the show). Every word Gigi says is padded with sufficient voice quivers and packed with the direct bluntness only a retiree can muster. Even shots of Gigi sleeping are perfectly performed, reminiscent of the is-she-dead-or-just-sleeping moments of our own childhoods. Donning the pounds of makeup which compose her face, Krumholtz truly becomes Gigi.
The believability of Gigi is the wellspring from which the show’s best moments spring forth. Were Gigi a less realized stereotype, her offensiveness would be trite and taxing; but, in Gigi’s bouts of crassness, Krumholtz is usually able to maintain the integrity of his character and minimize the required suspension of disbelief. The comedy flows not from Gigi’s shenanigans but from such mundane sources as her word choice, pantomimes and casually flippant remarks. At the show’s best, the events surrounding Gigi do not matter and the focus is entirely on her genuinely interesting character.
Unfortunately, Krumholtz has a tendency to forget where Gigi’s strengths lie. While less frequent as the show progresses, “Gigi Does It” often transitions from loving caricature to absurdist farce, relying on gross-out gags and shock humor that fail to elicit laughs. The main appeal of “Gigi” is this character’s surprising credibility. When Krumholtz falls back on his weaker material such as visual comedy or wild plot twists, however, this illusion of realism is shattered and his show’s potential is squandered.
This issue stems from the show’s central problem: a near-absent supporting cast. Beyond Gigi herself, the only recurring character on the show is Gigi’s assistant Ricky, who is less a sidekick than a haphazard sketch. Unable to split the spotlight with a costar, Gigi must carry all 22 minutes of each episode herself, and though she is entertaining to observe, even the strongest of characters struggle to entertain by virtue of personality alone. Krumholtz is thus forced to stretch his quality material thin and fill the gaps with easy and obnoxious gags.
Yet, despite its blemishes, “Gigi” stands proud in a field of strong comedic contenders. Her brittle bones quiver under the pressure of carrying the show herself, but future episodes and seasons will hopefully bring new characters to share the burden.
“Gigi Does It” premieres tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST on IFC.
Contact Ryan Holmdahl at ryanlh ‘at’ stanford.edu.