May 5, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “I’m Dying Up Here”


I’M DYING UP HERE:  Sunday 10PM on Showtime

Showtime’s I’M DYING UP HERE is a behind-the scenes showbiz story, and fittingly the series itself is part of one.  Despite terrible ratings and reviews that were generally less than enthused, the network picked it up for a 2nd season just days before also announcing that it had landed the much more valuable Kidding, which happens to star Dying‘s Executive Producer Jim Carrey, and which was the subject of a competitive bidding war.  We haven’t seen Kidding yet, so there’s no way to tell whether this deal made sense for Showtime in the big picture of it all, but the process likely gave Dying a new lease on life.

The transaction doesn’t seem to have required I’m Dying Up Here to make any major creative changes for Season 2.  The premiere episode, written by series creator Dave Flebotte and directed by Adam Davidson, is perhaps a bit more perkily paced than last year’s typical hour, and the 1970s LA visuals are less insistently smoggy.  But it features the same crop of (with one exception) struggling stand-up comics, all within the general orbit of tart club owner Goldie (Melissa Leo).  The single success is Ron (Clark Duke), who’s hit the jackpot, becoming a series regular on the sitcom that had him as a walk-on in Season 1, and now so rich (temporarily, at least) that he can move from his former billet in a closet to a 5-bathroom home with room for pals Eddie (Michael Angarano) and Bill (Andrew Santino)–and unofficially Edgar (Al Madrigal)–to live with him.  Those three, Ralph (Erik Griffin) and cokehead Nick (Jake Lacy) are still plying their trade, although the action of the episode has them on the road more than in Goldie’s club.  Meanwhile, Cassie (Ari Graynor) is found awaiting the broadcast of the comedy special she worked on last season, so eagerly that one knows disaster must be on its way.  (It is, more literally than one might expect.)  Adam (RJ Cyler) has recorded a stand-up album and acquired an agent, although he’s still awaiting his big break.

The most notable addition to Season 2 is Brad Garrett, in a recurring guest star role as Roy Martin, a Vegas headliner who may or may not enter into a partnership with Goldie.  Garrett brings star power and comedy bona fides to Dying, even if, as with all the comedian characters on the show, he isn’t frequently called upon to be funny.  In addition, we will clearly learn more about Goldie’s personal life, with appearances in the season premiere by her bitterly estranged daughter (Stefania LaVie Owen) and ex-husband (Jere Burns).

In short, I’m Dying Up Here should continue to please the limited group of viewers that appreciated it last season, without much sign that it’s trying to attract a wider audience.  The performers are all convincing and Graynor, in particular, is better than that–her scenes with Melissa Leo continue to be high points of the show.  The physical production and its recreation of Nixon-era LA is well rendered.  But it’s all too easy to understand why these characters aren’t household names, as Dying concentrates on the unglamorous and prosaic.  It’s difficult to regard the series with more enthusiasm than most of the crowds at Goldie’s club, moderately engaged but rarely enthralled.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."