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big lake

So, Is the New Will Ferrell–Produced Comedy Central Show Big Lake Any Good?

No. But it could be! Premiering last night in a two-episode block, Big Lake — co-produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and starring Chris Gethard, a UCB lifer getting his heartwarming big break — came out of the gate a bit iffy. Gethard plays Josh Franklin, a Wall Street hotshot who screwed up bigtime and brought down the bank he worked for, losing his parents' $385,000 retirement fund in the process. He moves back into his folks' home in podunk Big Lake and vows to repay the money lost, meaning every episode will find Josh scheming, alongside his idiot buddy Glenn (Horatio Sanz) and his burned-out former history teacher Chris (Chris Parnell), on how to turn an easy buck. Now that right there is not a bad premise for a comedic television show.

But right now, problems abound. At least in the first two episodes, there was awkwardly expository dialogue, forced acting, illogical character detail, and way, way too many one-liners. Then there's Josh: It's easy to picture Gethard as a striver in a small town, but not so much as the big-city hotshot we're told he recently was. He's earnest and well-intentioned, but with no particular swagger to speak of. Also, part of the joke is that Big Lake is shot like a traditional sitcom with nontraditional humor. But that means there's a laugh track, and it is loud and it is jarring.

And on the other hand: Gethard is incessantly likable; Sanz and Parnell are pros at salvaging jokes that maybe shouldn't work; and, ultimately, we did laugh regularly. Everything's a little one-note-y right now, but maybe it's hard not to be when you're first introducing characters and want them to stick (unless you're David Simon and you don't care about things making sense for at least, like, half a season). And having every episode end on a blindly optimistic point is both sweet and twisted and kind of great.

And now here is a video featuring Horatio Sanz's belly button: