Critical Condition: I’m Dying Up Here

I’m Dying Up Here (SoHo, 9.30 Tuesdays)

“By the end of the first episode of this utterly seductive tale about the comedy-club scene of early-1970s Los Angeles, it’s clear that the lives of these aspiring comedians with all their inexhaustible yearning, their whining, their gratitude for any spot onstage–2 a.m., before an audience of 15, including drunken hecklers, what could be wrong with that?–is the stuff of irresistible drama.” — Wall Street Journal.

“When I’m Dying Up Here uses comedy as a vehicle to be about something more, it succeeds, but when it forces matters, it fails ugly. The fourth episode is a clumsy and frequently hypocritical effort to glom onto the Women’s Rights Movement … The smoother storylines of the earlier episodes and an ensemble with no sore thumb pieces kept me watching through the rough sections and left me with hope that even though TV’s need for another show about comedians is nonexistent, I’m Dying Up Here might continue with an approach that’s different enough and expansive enough to be worthwhile.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

“Here’s a recommendation: Pretend that the show isn’t premiering [tonight] and watch next week’s episode instead. Or maybe jump in two weeks from now. By that point, I’m Dying Up Here has dialed down some of its unnecessary exposition and self-importance, becoming a half-interesting period piece about a business that prides itself on mutual cruelty. By skipping [the] premiere, you’ll miss a tediously rote launch that’s straight out of TV 101.” — The Washington Post.

“The series spends a lot of time on truths that are fairly well known — i.e., that standups are generally damaged, difficult people who have trouble with intimacy and both cheer and envy the success of their peers. But the show doesn’t spend quite enough time and effort on the kind of deeply textured character development that would allow it to stand out in a crowd … No one in their right mind would expect I’m Dying Up Here to boast a suspenseful plot, but the generally predictable storylines are meandering to a fault.” — Variety.

“The jokes showcased from the stage aren’t evocative of the humour necessary for us to believe in these comics … The intended magic isn’t there often enough, and — worse yet for Showtime — this kind of camaraderie-fueled goodheartedness combined with multiple wackadoo sex scenes evoke memories of the network’s recent disappointment, Cameron Crowe’s Roadies — and I’m Dying Up Here is harder to watch. Granted, I kind of liked Roadies, but there’s a lot of clutter in the stand-up comic version that never gets sorted (not through six episodes, at least).” — IndieWire.

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