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The Life & Times of Tim: The Complete First Season (2008)

HBO Home Video
DVD Released: 2/9/2010

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/28/2010

I was recently having a conversation with my kids about The Pink Panther cartoons. We were talking about the fact that the shorts have no dialogue and thus, the story must be told through visuals and the characters actions only. We decided that this was challenging way to do a cartoon. This got me thinking, what is the most important factor in animation? Is it the animated drawings themselves? Is it the music? Is the voice actors? Could a show with limited components still be satisfying. The Life & Times of Tim is an animated show which gives limited a new meaning, and its first season is coming to DVD.

As one would expect, The Life & Times of Tim focuses on Tim (voiced by Steve Dildarian), a young man who lives in New York City. Tim lives with his girlfriend, Amy (voiced by M.J. Otto), and works at a vague company called Omnicorp. Stu (voiced by Nick Kroll) is Tim's co-worker and best friend. Tim is a soft-spoken, somewhat anxious man who tries to do the right thing. Unfortunately, Tim is a magnet for trouble and his actions usually land him in hot water. Sometimes he gets himself into these situations by doing something stupid. At other times, he's trying to please Amy or his boss (voiced by Peter Giles) and things go wrong. And in some instances, Tim just doesn't know when to shut up. Whether it's being caught with a hooker, misleading a Sunday school group, or fondling Amy's grandmother, something strange and awful is always happening to Tim.

If you've every scene Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, then The Life & Times of Tim will immediately remind you of that show for two reasons (well, three actually). First of all, it's all about the voice acting. Series creator Dildarian and his cast bring us a very realistic and conversational vocal style, which is most likely highly improvised. The speakers start, stop, and cut each other off, just like in real conversations. The voices are very unique and recognizable. Having said that, Dildarian sounds like a cross between Dr. Katz regular H. Jon Benjamin (who played Dr. Katz's son Ben) and Dr. Katz frequent guest Ray Romano -- this really made me think of Dr. Katz while watching the show. The other reason is the limited animation. Dr. Katz used the odd "Squigglevision" form of animation, which gave the characters very limited motion, but the characters themselves had some detail (the celebrity guests resembled their real-life counterparts). The animation on The Life & Times of Tim is even more limited than "Squigglevision". The characters don't move very much and everyone looks like a sketch rather than a well-thought-out drawing. On episodes with multiple characters, you'll notice that most of the women look the same.

The difference between The Life & Times of Tim and Dr. Katz is that Tim simply isn't as funny as the groundbreaking Dr. Katz. The show certainly has some funny moments, but it's very hit or miss. For one thing, the limited animation hurts the show. One could easily treat this like a radio show and never see the images and still follow everything. The animation rarely, if ever, adds to the story. (I hate to keep bringing up Dr. Katz, but that show made great use of its visuals, especially when Dr. Katz would imagine something.) Being on HBO, the show features profanity and cartoon nudity, but at times, it revels too much in this freedom and tries to play the shocking or crude card, as opposed to the clever one. I certainly didn't look to the show for realism, but from the very first episode, it seems very odd and questionable that anyone (Amy, Stu, his Boss) would stick by Tim after some of the things that he does. Which brings me to the shows biggest problem -- it's too formulaic. Every episode is essentially the same -- a situation is introduced, we wait for Tim to botch it somehow, and then we watch him awkwardly try to patch things up with those around him. It seems like every sitcom has some stupid man who is always making a mess -- Tim is that guy x 1000. The repetitive nature of the show makes it that rare series which is more difficult to watch on DVD. Due to the brevity of the season, I was able to watch all of the episodes in just a few sittings, but I wish that I'd spaced them out more, as I quickly grew weary of the "What's Tim going to do now?" frustration.

I realize that I'm coming down hard on Tim, but that's because the show has potential. Again, I did laugh at least once at every episode, and when the show wasn't trying too hard, there were actually some clever and astute lines here. I do admire the fact that the show has some semblance of continuity and it sort of ended on a cliffhanger. Still, I should have been wary from the outset. Unlike seemingly every other HBO show, The Life & Times of Tim doesn't get much publicity and the last episode of this season aired in November 2008. (The show has been renewed for a second season.) The Life & Times of Tim is a lot like the main character - it tries and sometimes it succeeds and sometimes you are ashamed of it.

The Life & Times of Tim: The Complete First Season is often misquoted on DVD courtesy of HBO Home Video. This two-disc set contains all ten episodes from the show's first season. The episodes has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, as the show features a palette which runs from pastels to deep hues. The transfer doesn't reveal any issues with the animation, such as stuttering or broken lines. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, as the show offers many scenes where characters will say something from off-screen causing the sound to emanate from the left or right channel. Surround sound effects are limited to crowd and street noises, and I don't recall any significant subwoofer effects.

The Life & Times of Tim: The Complete First Season DVD contains only one extra feature, which is a series of ten "Awkward Moments" which run about 8 minutes. I don't know if these are deleted scenes or something which was made for the web, but they play just like very brief scenes from the show...which means that there's some funny stuff here.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long