One of the most pleasant surprises on television this year has been the FX midseason comedy Legit, starring standup comedian Jim Jefferies as himself. Laugh-out-loud funny with a tinge of heart, the series has attracted a decent audience and was recently renewed for a second season, to air on FX's new offshoot network FXX.
Prior to the announcement late last month, Jefferies and co-creator Peter O'Fallon spoke to The Hollywood Reporter and discussed the possibilities they had in mind for future seasons, as well as the positive response from the disabled community and how to strike that delicate balance between potentially offensive and heartwarming.
"In Jim's comedy there's this small little heart in it," O'Fallon explained. "Heart is a too strong a word, because it sounds sappy. But in the big picture, Jim as a human being is a decent guy. We have [an episode] called 'Cuckoo's Nest' based on Jim going to a home for people with disabilities and him becoming a counselor. It's funny and again — oddly touching. We've had an amazing response from the disabled community. They just love what we're doing."
Legit has been recognized for its portrayal of people with a variety of disabilities and including them as regular characters. DJ Qualls plays the younger brother of Jim's best friend Steve (Dan Bakkedahl), Billy, who uses a motorized wheelchair and cannot care for himself due to advanced muscular dystrophy. Despite his condition, Billy is treated like any other character and plays an integral role in the show. There are also a number of other recurring characters portrayed by actual people with disabilities, including fan-favorite Nick Daley, who suffers from a genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome.
"We were kind of nervous when we were making a lot of things, especially with Nick, the guy who plays Rodney," Jefferies said. "We know we're not mean guys. We know we're not being nasty, but maybe people won't see it the same way we see it. I've now met on my tour probably more people with muscular dystrophy than anyone would meet in their life."
Jefferies and O'Fallon also recounted a story about a fan with muscular dystrophy who died shortly after proclaiming his love for Legit on Twitter. "I tweeted back, and found out he loved the show. It was heartbreaking," recalled O'Fallon. "The thing that people have told us is they love that we don't treat anybody special. That's the thing I love about Jim's character. In an episode he sleeps with a married woman, and the next morning she holds up her ring. He says, 'I don't pay attention.' I love the idea that the reason Jim is so good with people with disabilities is that he doesn't pay attention — in a really good way. If he likes you and thinks you're a good person, he doesn't give a f--k what's wrong with you."
Many of the stories are inspired by Jefferies' experiences with a real-life friend with muscular dystrophy, as well as O'Fallon caring for his father before he died of ALS. "It's understanding not only how difficult it is, but also how much work is involved," O'Fallon noted. "These guys make it like it's no big deal."
Billy and Steve's parents, Walter and Janice, are played by two of the finest comedic performers in the business — John Ratzenberger (Cheers) and Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers) — and they have a contentious but loving relationship. Due to Janice's hoarding, Walter lives in a tent in the backyard and is allotted one six-pack of beer. Meanwhile, Jim's parents still live in Australia, but Jefferies hopes to get them involved in Season 2.
"There are so many stories about my parents, that I'd like to have an episode that involves getting my mom and dad out [to L.A.]," the comedian revealed. "Season 2, if we get it, will also involve John Ratzenberger a lot more. There should be a small part of the season where he and Mindy get divorced or separated for a while and he moves into the house with us."
O'Fallon added, "I love the idea of a 67-year-old man moving in with these three guys. He lives in a tent with a cooler and she gives him one six pack of beer. Just imagine if he had a case or two."
There are more stories derived from Jefferies' life and standup routine that he would like to do next season.
"There are stories we wanted to do, but money was an issue and more importantly the machine wasn't up and running," said Jefferies. "We didn't know how fast we could make these episodes. A storyline from my standup routine — I went to Afghanistan and saw a guy shot from a helicopter — we didn't think we'd have the time or money to make that happen. Maybe in Season 2 we'll have both."
If you haven't seen Legit, I highly recommend checking out the season finale that aired last night, entitled "Fatherhood." I started watching the show half-way through the season and I would say this was the strongest episode and a perfect example of its blend of comedy and real emotion.
Have you enjoyed Legit? Are you looking forward to Season 2?