Who walks away best from all of this is Williams, playing a fictional version of Gaffigan’s real-wife Jeannie. She gets some of the best, exasperated line deliveries and feels more at home in the show’s bipolar world than anyone else who pops up. Case in point: the extreme two-for-one caricature combo of Jeannie’s mother-hating, tie-advisor of a gay bff Daniel (Michael Ian Black) and Jim’s ultra-straight horndog of a bff Dave (Adam Goldberg). William’s more natural, down-to-earth performance is the show’s baseline, and while she barely merits a full guffaw, she at least avoids the dreaded cringe.
But that’s not even the real issue here, the real issue is The Jim Gaffigan Show‘s bold-faced duality. It packages itself as a sleek new take on the classic sitcom tropes, but turns out to just be one of them in the end. Its most complex, interesting plots include mixing up two important packages as one another and basic misunderstandings that could be dealt with in a few sentences. It throws out lines to its leads — “You look like every bad guy on Downton Abbey,” said from Gaffigan lounging in underwear to a well-dressed Daniel — that feel so assembly-line stale and safe, they come off like the writing equivalent of baby-proofing your kitchen.
There’s just no angle, no real viewpoint, no drama. Maybe most interesting is the show’s somewhat bold bent towards the family’s religious beliefs, a formerly ubiquitous trend that largely hightailed it from mainstream comedies in recent decades. I’m far from religious and care little about such a resurgence, but Gaffigan is mostly successful in taking his faith and incorporating it into the show with no huss or fuss, melding something old — finally, successfully — with something new. He then plasters a 3-year-old’s colorful drawing of his penis all over the church’s newsletter and, what the show most stupidly doesn’t understand, is too afraid to even show the audience.
Gaffigan himself reiterates numerous times on his family-friendly comedy routine, as if writing an apology into every script will make up for the wearisome show as a whole. It doesn’t, and it ends up being like watching a re-run of an R-rated movie on basic cable: you know the jokes are there, you just aren’t hearing them, and the awkward pauses and dead spots for potty humor and adult reprieves are making it hard to watch. Which isn’t to say younger-skewing network comedies are humorless. Family comedies can be funny; this one just isn’t.
Kneecapped by a desperation for inoffensiveness and broadly-written characters, there is quite literally nothing residing within the homogeneous world of The Jim Gaffigan Show that you haven't already seen before from a Jim, a Raymond, or a Tim.