‘Lady Dynamite’ review: Season 2 still hilarious, exuberant

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Maria Bamford — the stand-up who has battled bipolar II disorder since her childhood growing up in Duluth, Minn. — continues to recount her life in this semi-autobiographical comedy. Boyfriend Scott (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and agent Bruce Ben-Bacharach (Fred Melamed) are still hanging around. Expect cameos from Judd Apatow, Andy Samberg and many others.

MY SAY: Meant to serve as an advisory to any viewer who may have stumbled onto her program by accident, Bamford opens one of her Netflix specials with a story about Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse.” Her well-meaning parents once took her to see the feel-good movie because — as she recalls telling them — “You love me. Why on earth would you want to see me suffer?” But upon seeing the movie, she decided that “as far as I’m concerned … [it’s] a 14-hour real-time documentary about a gentle horse struggling in vain to escape from the barbed wire.”

She pauses, looks into the camera, sweetly smiles, then solicitously adds, “This may be your ‘War Horse.’”

To anyone who has never heard of Bamford or “Lady Dynamite,” which airs on Netflix, allow me to allay concerns: There’s no way this series could be your “War Horse.” It may, however, be your “Arrested Development.” (That show’s Mitchell Hurwitz is one of the co-creators and showrunners.) Kissed with madness, sometimes ablaze with it, “Lady Dynamite” is a brilliant, hilarious, ridiculously raucous excursion through Bamford’s life and mind. As in the first season, there are some slow patches here and there, or the occasional non sequitur pileup on the freeway of Bamford’s exuberant imagination. But no barbed wire. No horses — although there are three talking raccoons in the second season opener.

What to make of “Dynamite” and Bamford’s humor? There’s a touch of that-which-doesn’t-kill-you-will-make-you-funnier. There’s also the occasional sense that she’s working through something so painful, so intimate, that the only way to avoid the abyss is to confront it head-on.

Recall last season’s finale “tribute,” for example, to her real-life pug, Blossom — who died in 2011, sending Bamford into a deep depression. In this reincarnation, Blossom sings and speaks in a German accent, advising her owner to “do vat I can no longer do, Maria. Live, LIVE, my Liebchen!”

Once seen (or heard), never forgotten. But try not to laugh.

This second season finds Maria in semi-comfortable domestic bliss, with Scott by her side and the demons nipping at her heels. Both find themselves confronting debt, so they hire an embezzler, one Emily Bezzler (Judy Greer) to handle their books. In flashbacks to Duluth, where the demons were first nurtured, her mom (Mary Kay Place) wants her to tail her father, whom she suspects of having an affair with another man. In the future, or flash-forwards, Maria is working for a studio not unlike Amazon, called “Muskovision,” run by Elon Musk. The occasional rocket takes off behind one of the sound stages. Karen Grisham (Ana Gasteyer) is still managing her career — although you’d still be hard-pressed to call this “managing” or a “career.”

But at least it all remains hilarious and mad.

BOTTOM LINE: One of TV’s funniest shows, and gifted stars, returns.

 

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