Cartoon characters have always been a breeze to work with.
They don’t age or ache or retire; and, now, they don’t get COVID. That helped rescue a show: “Cake” (shown here with one of its logos) opens its third season at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday (July 9) on FXX, then reaches Hulu the next day.
The FX networks have been hit hard by virus shutdowns. Their original productions take a boutique approach – low quantity, high quality. Now two of the best – “Fargo” and “Pose” – are on hold.
In that scorched landscape, we’re glad to see anything new. “Cake” will do.
In the past, it’s been a collection of short-take bits, live-action and animated. As the new season starts, however, the animation has take over almost entirely.
There is one brief sketch in the second episode – a clever therapist scene – that has two live actors, thoroughly distanced. Beyond that, we have animated characters who are free to mix and mingle.
Most sketch-comedy shows are wildly inconsistent. (When was the last time everything on “Saturday Night Live” worked?) And that’s particularly true of “Cake.”
Many of its shorter bits cross the line between “abstract” and “obtuse.” The longer ones are also inconsistent; oddly, Thursday’s second episode is quite a bit better than the first.
Both are dominated by “Dicktown,” with John Hodgman and David Rees as producers and stars. They play detectives in Richardsville (that’s Dicktown to cynics), thoroughly mismatched. One (Hodgman) pours out empty facts). The other (Rees) is muscular and dense; he uses “PBS” as a pejorative.
Their first story – finding out who’s been saying nasty things on the internet about a black female Aquaman – is fairly funny; the second is much better: A teen-ager is worried that she and a guy might be dating. (She prefers being “strangers with benefits.”) But she can’t ask him, for fear that would make him think she wants to date.
Several of the “Cake” bits are in that mode – mocking the words and the attitudes of a too-hip society. One has an Uber-type driver with a stream of trendy phrases.
Others range from so-so to surprisingly clever. In the second episode we get one that manages to be lovely and tragic and (briefly) funny … while giving us a whole different view of the “miracle on the Hudson” plane landing. That’s not something you’d expect on, say, “Saturday Night Live.”