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Lady Dynamite Is Your First Must-Binge Show of the Summer

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Michael Nicewander
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Doug Hyun/Netflix

Five, ten, maybe twenty years from now, when some curious newb cues up Netflix s Lady Dynamite—and, based on the first four episodes alone, people will be watching this smart, happily trippy series for a long while—they ll be seeing a lot of sitcom anomalies: It treats mental illness with delicacy, precision, and an utter lack of lesson-ladling seriousness; it jams together a whole mess of 21st-century comedy styles without having them collapse upon impact; and it s the first binge-era series in which a character turns the phrase cradle the balls and work the shaft into a catchy, easy-to-repeat sing-along I m just guessing on the last point, as I still haven t seen Bosch .

Once Maria snaps out of her reverie, though, she s back to her new reality, one in which she s on meds, out of work, and in the office of her kind but feckless manager played with delightful fussiness by A Serious Man s Fred Melamed , to whom she breaks the news that, after her breakdown, she needs to take it easy, career-wise.

So while Lady Dynamite sends Maria off on a search for connection and understanding—a search that finds her setting up a community bench for her neighbors on her front lawn, dating a bisexual meth-addict, and joining a support group for white people who worry they may be racist—she s often undermined by both her own screw-ups, and by an industry that constantly wants to sell her out and shut her up.

Throughout Lady Dynamite, we jump back and forth between Maria s pre- and post-treatment showbiz career, and the Hollywood it depicts is a beautiful but insufferably shrill hellhole—a city pockmarked by cynical opportunists and calculating frenemies, all slaves to an industry that churns out hours worth of racist, misogynist network sitcoms or big-chain commercials that make everyone rich while shoplifting their souls.

In Duluth, we watch as Maria tries to fit in among her parents Mary Kay Place and Ed Begley Jr. , her fellow patients, her cubicle-manacled coworkers, and her cruelly condescending childhood best friend MadTV s Mo Collins ; such flashbacks find her rudderless, unable to perform onstage without wilting.

Back in Hollywood, she may still be adrift, but at least she s no less crazy than her peers, which includes Saturday Night Live s Ana Gasteyer as a cravenly phony agent she s the one who belts out that impromptu balls/shaft ditty, for reasons too long and happily silly to divulge here as well as Playing House star and new-comedy economy mainstay Lennon Parham as Maria s lazy, underminey assistant.

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Michael Nicewander
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