Until the recent economic collapse hit and home values plummeted, “flipping” fixed-up houses had grown from a small movement of handy folks with foresight into a cottage industry. “How-to” guides and home-improvement shows proliferated to the point where it seemed like every other high-numbered cable channel featured it’s own Bob Vila or Norm Abrams.
Now, banks are trying to offload foreclosed mortgages by any available means and houses that would have been prime flip fodder have instead become a prime source of copper piping for the locals junkies to steal.
This bear market needs a new hero, a Tim Taylor for the current real estate environment. We don’t need some run-of-the-mill home improvement expert with no personality hammerin’ nails or fixing the sink. We need Jimmy Pace: he’s got safety goggles, an empty tool belt and he doesn’t actually know how to fix anything. The bane of all his hired contractors as well as his entire film crew, Jimmy is one motivated pain in the @$$.
The multitalented Andy Parker conceived, writes, directs and plays the fantastically inept Jimmy Pace. However, I hadn’t done my research before watching, so failed take after failed take, I couldn’t believe my eyes when episode 1 began.
My hunch that this couldn’t be real was confirmed when the credits rolled, but the chemistry between Parker and Tom Cappadonna (who plays contractor Tommy Macinelli) was exquisitely honest and volatile. Both men play their roles perfectly, stringing the viewer along in what would be any on-screen contractor’s worst nightmare.
Tommy’s nightmare continues in episode 2, when the pair travel to Denver to work on a house. He quickly solves his own problem, but shifts the burden to Jimmy’s crew.
As funny as the first two episodes were, I was a little afraid that the premise would lose its edge quickly. Parker proved my fears unfounded and continued to wring charm out of his bumbling alter-ego. It also helps that the rest of the cast – production assistant, Beth (Ashley Henkle), in particular – does an excellent job expressing their eternal exasperation with Jimmy’s eccentricities.
The gag remains amusing because it’s not just the same joke over and over. Parker deftly manipulated scenarios that would have become stale in the hands of a lesser writer. Though he’s clearly unfit for the gig, Jimmy is nothing if not consistent and there’s always something new of which to be completely ignorant.
Sometimes Jimmy shocks his crew (and his viewers) by actually being correct about something. After some unintentional phallus humor with contractor, Carl (Nate Ocansey), he leaves the man speechless with his description of a load-bearing wall. Of course, it’s all back downhill from there.
An attempt at a “charity” episode goes awry to the dismay of Gary, the producer (Laramie Williams), who later refuses to grant Jimmy any of the gimmicks he desires to spice up the show. Ultimately, Jimmy just wants to feel useful as it becomes more clear that his personal limitations are taking a toll on the final product.
Jimmy Pace’s Fixer-Upper is a well-crafted series that runs with a good premise, but knows when to call it quits. It’s also not just trying to be a comedy for its own sake. Of note is the show’s working relationship with a website called ServiceMagic.com. It’s unclear whether Jimmy Pace was fully funded by them, or if it’s just a convenient association. Regardless, that site is a database of home improvement materials for DIY projects, or if you’re the Jimmy Pace type you can find pre-screened professionals to get your job done.
Anyhow, go check out the final episode and don’t forget to wear your safety goggles.