This Baskets review contains spoilers.
Baskets Season 3 Episode 8
Sometimes Baskets does low-key, slice-of-life episodes, but other times it reminds you this is a Zach Galifianakis show about a clown. Slapstick and general over-the-topness are part of the series’ DNA and batshit episodes like this make sure we don’t forget it.
This stuff doesn’t always work for me. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the extended silliness of Chip and Dale’s house-destroying fight last season. There are limits to my suspension of disbelief. “Fight” was the most cartoonish episode of the second season and I’d say “Commercial” is the most cartoonish of the third so far. However, it’s also the best one. This is because it’s not just cartoonishness in and of itself. All the goofy stuff is paired with character and plot development, making for a lively, engaging episode that’s funny throughout.
“Commercial” gets away with a lot of this in a really inventive way. Since the plot is about the Baskets family trying to make their own advertisement for the rodeo, the episode takes this as an excuse to show us lots of local TV commercials for local businesses. It’s a clever gimmick: every time a business pops up in the plot, we get to see their commercial first.
The ads are all pretty ridiculous, but that’s how local television often is so it works. Some of these feel like actual advertisements (still genuinely wondering if I’ve seen that costume store ad on TV before). Dale’s Baskets Community College ad is less realistic but has a brilliant string of gags regardless. The college offers a series of knife-related degrees (Knife Law, for example) and boasts that it’s “California’s first and only open-carry career college.”
Outside of the fake ads, Dale (as usual) brings most of the rest of the goofiness to the episode, shouting and being a jerk to his mom and everyone else. However, there’s dramatic tension tied to it all as, sick of his treatment of Christine, Ken slaps Dale. It’s not a deathly serious moment or anything; it’s just a slap, after all, and Chip (correctly) brushes it off because Dale deserved it. Christine, however, is conflicted. It’s a complicated position for a parent to be in when someone else punishes their child, regardless of how deserving the punishment was or what form it took. It follows then that things between Ken and Christine remain unresolved at the end.
The best scene takes place in a costume shop. It’s a longish scene and much of the episode’s drama unfolds here. There’s also a hilarious, escalating, running gag as each character walks into the shop only to be spooked in turn by an automated skeleton that pops out of the chimney (it’s a Christmas-themed skeleton, for some reason). It sums up what’s so great about the episode: it’s absurd and gag-heavy, but all the dysfunction and drama plays out simultaneously as Dale turns against everyone else.
“Commercial” is a very silly Baskets that still pulls off dramatic and emotional beats. It’s amazing that something this over-the-top can be part of the same season that featured an (also great) slice-of-life, indie-film-esque episode about having Thanksgiving at Arby’s. “Commercial” is the most entertaining episode of season three so far and a testament to Baskets’ flexible comedy and storytelling.