It's pretty clear that Comedy Central is hoping "Idiotsitter" will follow the path of "Broad City," the unique New York buddy comedy that has won tons of viewers and a firm critical embrace. Both originated as Web series, both are created and written by a female duo who also star, and both give us rudderless and reckless young women who find stability in their relationship with each other.
Also, both shows could easily — but incorrectly — be categorized as women doing "Workaholics" or bro comedy. When women smoke pot, pass gas, have sex, make bad choices, and develop their closest bonds with other female friends, guess what: They aren't imitating men.
Based on a preview of two episodes, "Idiotsitter" is fairly amusing, but I don't think it will reach the heights of "Broad City." It's locked into a premise that, like many network sitcom concepts, might become limiting after a while. "Broad City" is a loose picaresque about living in the city without money, without goals, and without responsibilities. Anything can happen, and does. The characters are resoundingly specific, and the whole endeavor has a DIY feel. "Idiotsitter," which premieres Thursday at 10:30 p.m., revolves around a formulaic situation that works for now, but doesn't promise breadth or variety in the future. It's a lot slicker, and, despite a pair of entertaining lead performances, the two main characters are familiar types.
Billie (Charlotte Newhouse) is hired to babysit a wayward young woman named Gene (Jillian Bell). Gene is on house arrest and must have a court-appointed monitor, and her super-wealthy parents trick Billie into taking the job and tutoring Gene to take the GED. They also buy Billie with lots of cash, which works since she has huge college loans to pay off. Billie is a gentle intellectual, and Gene is a bombastic partier who, when Billie mentions Beethoven, thinks she's referring to the movie dog. So we have Billie and Gene — random Michael Jackson reference anyone? — pulling each other in conflicting directions; Billie needs to be less uptight and have more fun, and Gene needs to be more responsible.
The actresses have great timing together — watch Bell's Gene mimic Newhouse's Billie the first time they meet — and when the characters have their unexpected bonding moments, the tone never dissolves into sentimentality. They create a nice sense of ever-switching dominance between their characters. Also, as the show satirizes the one percent, the two actors who play Gene's decadent parents are spot on. As Gene's rabidly politically incorrect father, who compares teaching to date rape, Stephen Root is pitch perfect. And as Gene's stepmother, who is a little Anna Nicole Smith, a little Sunny von Bulow, Jennifer Elise Cox is hysterical, as always. Cox, who had her breakthrough playing Jan in "The Brady Bunch" movies, knows how to tiptoe along the line between kooky and full-on demented camp. She's a treasure.
Like almost everything on Comedy Central, not just current shows such as "Inside Amy Schumer" but classics such as "Strangers With Candy," the humor in "Idiotsitter" isn't mainstream. It skews young, it pushes boundaries, and it's always willing to resort to debauchery and bodily-function jokes. If you're of a mind, it's also good for a few hearty laughs.
Starring Jillian Bell, Charlotte Newhouse, Steve Berg, Stephen Root, Jennifer Elise Cox
On Comedy Central, Thursday, 10:30 p.m.