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TV CRITIC’S CORNER

Start the Emmy campaign for Louie Anderson

Ben Cohen/FX

Zach Galifianakis (left) and Louis Anderson in “Baskets.”

By Globe Staff 

Baskets 10 p.m., FX

This is turning into an oddly sweet show, and the oddest thing may be that its star, Zach Galifianakis, is the least interesting thing in it. He plays aspiring clown Chip and his twin brother, Dale, well enough — but neither character is particularly well defined. Chip’s best moment came two weeks ago, when he found a surrogate mother in a hooker, played with a big heart by Meg Foster, and had a moment of childlike peace.

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There are three supporting characters who regularly lift the material on “Baskets” into something special. As the grizzled Eddie, Chip’s boss at the rodeo, Ernest Adams is gonzo greatness. As Martha, Chip’s thankless caretaker, Martha Kelly is affectlessness incarnate.

And as Chip’s mother, Christine, Louie Anderson is a miracle. I’ve said it here before, and I’ll say it again: This is an extraordinary performance that really deserves Emmy attention. Start the campaigns.

Anderson, a standup comic, plays the role in drag, but not really for laughs. For a split second, the sight of him in a wig seems a little gimmicky. But he quickly transcends costume and gender and you begin to care about Christine. She is the most poignant character on the show, an overweight, unhappy mother who heaps her self-loathing onto her two oldest sons, even though she is wildly protective of them. She simultaneously idealizes her adopted twins, even though they treat her with mild indifference — something we saw in heartbreaking detail in the memorable episode six. She’s a contradictory personality who can be both affectionate and passive aggressive, whose heart is twisted up with pride and pain.

Bravo to Anderson, and to the folks who cast him.

Recently, on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Anderson talked about playing Christine: “I really loved playing this part,” he told host Terry Gross, “for a big reason that my mom gets to come to life.”


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.