ONE MISSISSIPPI Review
Louis C.K., I like you. You’re a funny guy, a modern auteur, and possibly an actual genius. But Louis, my friend, I have a bit of a bone to pick with you. You’ve started pulling an Apatow as it were, making a point of fostering the creative voices of others from the lofty position of the Executive Producer’s chair. To make a long story short, it seems like you’re getting into the habit of forcing nice young women into a LOUIE-shaped hole. It’s a real triumph to make a strong, unique woman like Tig seem completely out of place and uncomfortable in a show that’s supposed to be about her own life, but you did it, didn’t you?
ONE MISSISSIPPI follows comedian Tig Notaro in a story we’ve seen and heard her in before: recovery from illness, grief, career, family, relationships, and childhood trauma. This is all standard fare for the loosely autobiographical dark comedy genre, which is very quickly becoming as saturated and annoying as the superhero genre. Given that Tig herself is an incredibly interesting and funny individual, it is truly amazing how absolutely none of her charm comes through in all six episodes of her show.
How do you make this woman uninteresting? Seriously? How the fuck did you do that?
ONE MISSISSIPPI feels caught between worlds in a variety of ways. The different comedic styles present in the series blend together less like a smoothie and more like blocks. Sure, they kind of fit together, but it’s blatantly clear that they’re not the same thing. Tig’s trademark deadpan is ever-present, but is nearly always overshadowed by a weird, hokey sitcom vibe. More often than not, the timing and delivery of jokes had me waiting for a laugh track. On the other side of the coin, there are a few moments that delve heavily into trademark Louis C.K. emotional surrealism. One of these bits involves Tig imagining what a fecal transfer might look like. Cut to Tig on all fours, hooked up to a machine with a giant suction cup on her ass, while circus music plays in the background and colorful lights swirl. I’m a known cringe junkie, and to be perfectly honest, I have never seen a human woman look more uncomfortable than Tig looked in that bit. The bit would have been hilarious in LOUIE, but it just didn’t feel like her.
Granted, I was not an avid Tig Notaro fan when I sat down to watch this show. I had heard tales of her brave, shirtless stand-up performance following her double mastectomy (BOYISH GIRL INTERRUPTED) and pencilled her into my list of potential feminist role models, but I hadn’t actually watched any of her material. Knowing this, I was completely shocked at how bland and uncomfortable Tig came across in her own damned show. I wondered if her brand of comedy was just lost on me for some reason, but then I went on YouTube and watched some of her stand-up. Take a look at this. (It’s long, watch at least the first three minutes.)
Is that not the most charming thing you’ve ever seen? Isn’t she just a delight? Her meek demeanor paired with her wry humor is just the most wonderfully refreshing thing. Her other stand-up is even better, because it has an undercurrent of darkness — something I imagine she was going for in this series — that makes her sweetness all the better. None of this comes across in her onscreen performance. I don’t know if it’s the format or the tone. Maybe there were creative disagreements. Maybe Tig is frankly sick of telling the same story over and over again and she’s completely checked out. I don’t know, I wasn’t there when this was being made, but it’s completely shocking.
It’s also a huge failure of form when — in a show about a real person’s real life — a fictional character completely overshadows the protagonist. Tig’s dad Bill is an absolute spark of joy in an otherwise bland three-hour experience. Bill begins the series as a robotic, generic brand Tom Hanks who loves two things and two things only: organization and his cat, Bonkers. The love and loss story between Bill and Bonkers outshone Tig’s romantic entanglements and even — to a degree — Tig’s loss of her mother. How? Because Bill actually underwent a change. There was clear and careful design in his character, and watching him traverse the arc laid out for him was fantastic. Top it off with a stellar performance and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Dammit, Old Straight White Dude, you’ve foiled me this time!
I would almost say that Bill alone makes this show worth watching, but the fact of the matter is that the only people who are going to watch ONE MISSISSIPPI are fans of Tig, and nothing that’s great about her manifests in her show. This is heartbreaking. I want to know what happened, but I doubt I ever will. At least we have an endless stream of YouTube content, a podcast, and (of course) her amazing comedy special to get all the Tig we need. This televised endeavor, unfortunately, was a failure.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend