Huff: Season 2
It seems to happen all too frequently in recent years. Just as you start getting into a television series the network becomes disenchanted with the show and unceremoniously cancelled. This happens after a single season, a handful of episodes or perhaps most regrettably after its second season. By that point a fan base has had an opportunity to become vested in the characters and themes. Recently it has occurred with shows such as the legal drama ‘Shark’ and the brilliantly dark comedy ‘Better off Ted’. Back in 2004 Showtime came up with a promising comedy/drama called ‘Huff with a notable cast lead by Hank Azaria. Although best known for voicing the majority of the population of Springfield on the long running Fox animated series ‘The Simpsons’, Azaria spread his acting wings phenomenally presenting a textured view of a man in the midst of a serve personal crisis. The DVD of the first season was released in March of 2006 in typical fashion just before the second season commenced. Although it was permitted to run out its thirteen episodes season ‘Huff’ was cancelled even though it received ten Emmy nominations winning three. Perhaps the series was just ahead of its time but the series has barely received a chance to explore the depth and intricacies of the characters or the full potential of the circumstances and themes contained in the story. If anything I a case could be made that the series diverted from its original direction to some extent but that is the plight of ant show in its sophomore season. It hast to build upon the foundation laid by the first season while making sufficient alterations to remain fresh. I am certain that had Showtime given the series a third season it would have rebounded and found a strong central narrative and pacing. This traditionally happens with the standard broadcast networks but upper tier cable networks typically exhibited more understanding in permitting a series sufficient time to find its voice and securely build its fan base. This is an example of a series that was brilliantly conceived but cancelled before its time.
Dr. Craig 'Huff' Huffstodt (Hank Azaria) has worked hard to build a successful psychiatric practice in Los Angles. He has a loving wife, Beth (Paget Brewster) and son Byrd (Anton Yelchin) yielding a home life with the usual familiar drama common to most of us. His personal life is made more ‘interesting’ by the constant hedonistic antics of his best friend, Russell Tupper (Oliver Platt) who also acts in the capacity of his attorney. The dynamic of his home is disrupted when his mother, Izzy (Blythe Danner) moves into their garage guest house. Huff also always take time to visit his brother Teddy (Andy Comeau) who is institutionalized in a mental health facility. Sure there were various issues in Huff’s life but in general he was coping as well as anyone could expect. That is until a random act of desperation that catalyzed a major life change in Huff. During a routine session with a fifteen year old patient he reacts to the depression and anxiety over revealing to his patents that he is homosexual. Without warning in the middle of talking to Huff the boy pulls a gun from his backpack and outs a bullet through his own head. This suicide in the first episode of the series set in motion a journey of doubt and self examination in the mind of Dr. Huffstodt.
Amidst all the internalized confusion Huff has two very unorthodox touchstones to reality. The first is the time he spends with his brother. Despite in in-patient status and mental instability Teddy always seems to be insightful and directly on point to provide Huff with a helpful perspective on the issues plaguing his life. The second is by far more enigmatic, a homeless Hungarian man (Jack Laufer) who has a habit of popping up in strange places with exceedingly odd requests. Although he never quite request money he always manages to extract some off beat favor from Huff. Since the Homeless Hungarian never seems to appear when Huff is with others there is the possibility that he is a manifestation of Huff’s subconscious. These two people have an odd influence on Huff frequently serving to stabilize the current situation, well usually.
This second season the number of plot lines is perhaps more dense that usual with the show runner juggle more threads than normally considered feasible. The plot lines were not intrinsically overly complex is was just sheer volume that can be overwhelming. Huff has a falling out with Russell when his outrageous behavior impacts Huff’s personal and professional life. Beth’s mother, Madeleine (Swoosie Kurtz) is dying with cancer and has moved in so Beth can care for her. She was nominated for an Emmy for this performance. Next Teddy leaves the facility and runs off to Mexico forcing him to reconcile with Russell to mount a recovery trip. Upon his return Teddy opts for an assisted living facility over in patient care much to Huff’s chagrin. It does work out for Teddy who begins a relationship with a pretty young woman. The mental turmoil continues when Huff’s father, Ben (Tom Skerritt) returns upsetting Izzy and generally disturbing the household.
There was a void left for the loyal fans with six years passing and still no release of this second season. I did notice there were a grey market full set of episodes available in online streaming video but not a disc in sight. That is until recently. Unexpectedly a manufacture on demand version was announced last month. This is a three disc set containing all 13 episodes with reasonably acceptable video and audio. MOD has become a means to release cult classics and marginally popular movies and television series and it seems that an increasing number of studios are embracing this manner of distribution. At least the entire series can be part of our collections now. it remains a worthwhile and entertaining show.