Entertainment

Steve Dildarian returns with wry ‘Ten Year Old Tom’ on HBO Max

Steve Dildarian is back with a new adult animated series that doesn’t miss a beat from “The Life & Times of Tim,” his terrific animated HBO comedy that ended its three-season run in 2012.

In that series, creator/writer/star Dildarian played the titular Tim, a 20-something laconic schlemiel living in New York with his girlfriend, Amy — a “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-type existence peppered with awkward situations.

In “Ten Year Old Tom,” premiering Thursday (Sept. 30) on HBO Max, Dildarian plays a similar character; here, Tom is only 10 (but going on 40) with a shrug-your-shoulders outlook on life tinged with surprise and naivete. He lives with his tattooed mother (Edi Patterson) while his plumber-father philanders elsewhere; his best friend, Nelson (Byron Bowers) often leads him astray (but always in a well-intentioned kind of way) and he’s surrounded by tone-deaf adults in his suburban New Jersey town. (Dildarian as a Garden State native.)

Each roughly-half-hour episode is comprised of two vignettes; in the opener, Tom’s sketchy bassoon-playing in the Shady Oaks Elementary School band triggers a storyline encompassing his teacher music teacher, Mr. B (John Malkovich), his bitter principal (Todd Glass) — who’s a “light stealer” in the supermarket and hopes nobody notices — and Tom’s school bus driver (Ben Rodgers) who pushes him to play baseball so he can attract girls. (“What’s ‘action?’ I’m not familiar with the phrase,” Tom says to him.) This leads to an embarrassing situation for Tom on the diamond, but only after telling his coach, referring to his uniform, that “I prefer not to tuck, if that’s an option.” The second storyline revolves around Tom, an ice cream truck, its cynical driver (David Duchovny) — “All day long with the kids and the excitement. I’m ready to blow my brains out in here” — and a social media campaign that goes south … quickly.

Photo showing Tom holding his bassoon and looking at his music teacher, Mr. B, in "Ten Year Old Tom."
Tom (Steve Dildarian) with his trusty bassoon, flanked by Dakota (Gillian Jacobs, left) and Yasmin (Taylor Misiak) in the series opener of “Ten Year Old Tom.” John Malkovich plays Mr. B (who’s wearing the scarf).
Credit: HBO Max

Much of the humor in “Ten Year Old Tom” is sparked by Dildarian’s dry delivery (almost a monotone) which counter-balances the weird situations in which Tom finds himself again and again. Jennifer Coolidge, George Wallace, Gillian Jacobs and Mark Proksch (“What We Do in the Shadows”) among others, also lend their pipes as supporting characters. Their contributions are as important to the series as Dildarian’s starring role; the series uses the same 2-D, back-to-basics approach Dildarian employed in “The Life & Times of Tim,” so the other characters’ voices need to resonate to fill around the emotional blanks that are part-and-parcel of the series’ minimalist animation style.

Dildarian fans, and those who appreciate sharp, slightly warped adult comedy, will enjoy “Ten Year Old Tom” and the slightly-off-kilter world of this clever series.

Photo showing Tom and his friend Nelson with Tom's baseball coach, who's played by Erik Griffin.
Tom and Nelson (Byron Bowers, right) with Steve’s baseball coach (Erik Griffin).
Credit: HBO Max
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