HBO's "The Life & Times of Tim" returns from cancellation tonight at 9, and you can be forgiven for not even realizing the show was canceled. The animated comedy has always existed well below the radar, airing in latenight for its first season and on Fridays for its second. It has its fans - I happen to be one of them - but they seem neither as vocal nor numerous as, say, the people stumping for "Archer" or various Adult Swim series.

So it was a disappointment but not a shock when HBO declined to order a third season back in June of 2010, and then a pleasant surprise when the decision was reversed a month and a half later after the show was shopped elsewhere. It's rare to see shows comes back from the dead, and the low-key fashion in which the whole saga played out seemed oddly fitting for such a simple, deadpan comedy.

If you haven't seen it, Tim (voiced by creator Steve Dildarian) is a guy in his 20s who isn't particularly smart or handsome or charming or, really, exceptional at anything. There are some ways in which he turns out to be worse than other people (in one of the season three episodes, we learn he's a notoriously bad tipper), but his main deficit is a horrible run of bad luck. Throughout the series, Tim gets into trouble - with his girlfriend Amy (MJ Otto) and her parents, with his boss (Peter Giles), his buddy Stu (Nick Kroll), and virtually anyone else he encounters - usually through no fault of his own. He means well, but is continually placed in the most mortifying circumstances imaginable. Here's the season 3 trailer to give you a sense:

Fienberg and I talked about the new episodes on yesterday's podcast, and Dan made an interesting point: that in these new episodes, Tim contributed to his own misfortune much more than he had previously. This is an area that always interests me when it comes to the Comedy of Embarrassment, so I emailed Dildarian for his take. Here's what he wrote back: 

going into the season, one thing i wanted to avoid was having the stories fall into a predictable formula (tim goes in with good intentions, is made to look bad, episode ends with him being scolded.) so this year there are probably more instances of tim misbehaving, tim trying to advance himself and failing, and sometimes actually succeeding while messing up the lives of others. there are also several stories where tim is not the focal point, but more of a participant.
 
that said, across the season, i'd be surprised if you find this to be a noticeable trend. i'd say 2/3 of the stories follow the more traditional pattern.
It's a funny show, and I'm glad HBO reversed course on things, even if they've left it in no man's land on Fridays. Feel free to discuss the premiere here tonight.