As cable networks battle it out to be the next HBO, even a channel like IFC, devoted to airing indie films, is feeling the urge to produce more and more original content. The anchor of its new Film Fanatic Fridays programming block is Hopeless Pictures, an animated comedy about Mel Wax (Michael McKean), the neurotic head of a lame Hollywood independent movie studio named after his dead parents, Hope and Les. The show’s deadpan humor is perfectly matched by its superflat, minimalist visuals. The oversize, self-obsessed heads of Wax and his colleagues barely move. Often they are trapped in L.A. traffic jams, talking on the phone with each other or with their mutual shrink, Dr. Stein, given voice by Jonathan Katz, a comic whose own award-winning cartoon, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, was clearly a model for Hopeless Pictures.
“The good news is that all of your problems are real,” the neurasthenic Dr. Stein consoles his various patients. Wax’s issues include an angry wife (Lisa Kudrow), a crazy director running rampant in Zagreb, and a broken tooth caused by an olive from the Olive Garden, which he complains “is feeling a lot like the pain I have when I think about my mom.” Then there is Wax’s abysmal staff, like the development girl who pitches a love story about Captain & Tennille and negotiates deals with writers during sex, where the term “back end” takes on a whole new meaning. If you can get past the excessive whining (and most fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm can), this is a fun Hollywood satire about characters whose heads are so swollen they blot out the world.