Category: Animation

Picking Apart “Drawn Together”

Filed Under Animation

Drawn Together's Captain HeroDrawn Together has never entirely worked for me. I’ve always thought the concept of a reality show revolving around cartoon characters was brilliant. They have a no-holds-barred sense that at times just lands with a thud, I think because the jokes are sometimes empty and occassionally lazy. One sequence featuring “Live Action Cow” was excruciable because every joke revolved around how still the character was. Other more recent episodes have been great though - the satire of stem cells “Clum Babies” comes to mind.

Writer Bill Freiberger has been a great presence at the site Toon Zone, handling both the postive and negative reaction to Drawn with some strong points and some nice candor, including pointing out how product placement even reaching to cartoons:

The reason that the controller is an exact replica is because Sony wanted it to be and Comedy Central made some sort of deal with them. We were just following orders.

Bill Freiberger was also the co-writer with his 13-year-old son of another sharp episode “Terms of Endearment”, detailing Captain Hero losing his powers and ending up in a wheelchair a la Christopher Reeve. The episode was originally to air in the first season, but after the actor’s death, the episode was set aside. The episode finally aired this past January. On the ToonZone board, Bill shared how hard it was to get the joke where Captain Hero loses his powers approved:

They thought it was too harsh (although it really wasn’t). In the scene, Hero climbs on a horse. The horse rears up and Captain Hero gently slides off the horse and directly into the wheel chair.

After we lost the use of that shot, we tried to have the sound of a horse winnie inside The Pillow Fort of Isolation while Hero was giving up his powers. The network nixed that as well. However, there is the sound of a Horse winne over the “Double Hemm” production logo at the end of the episode.

There’s also a full interview with Bill, where he details more about the show’s intents and how satire just doesn’t work for some people. Interesting stuff, even if you aren’t a fan of “Drawn.”

Posted by Todd Jackson at 09:29 PM | Comments (3)

South Park’s “Bloody Mary” Not Pulled Comedy Central Asserts.

Filed Under Animation

A frame from the South Park episode Bloody MaryAt least two bloggers have received responses from Comedy Central Viewer Services after complaining about the channel pulling an episode of South Park due to complaints from the Catholic League. According to those emails, the South Park episode “Bloody Mary” has not been pulled permanently as gloated by the Catholic League, but in fact, only briefly removed out of respect for the holidays (as my wife originally suspected). Below is the full text of the Comedy Central email:

Dear Viewer:

Thank you for your letter regarding the “South Park” episode entitled “Bloody Mary.”  We appreciate your concerns about the potential influences of outside special interest groups on the media and enterainment (sic) industries and particularly Comedy Central.  Though Comedy Central did not include the “Bloody Mary” episode in a special year-end marathon of “South Park” episodes in deference to the Holidays, “Bloody Mary” did in fact air in every one of “South Park’s” normally scheduled repeat timeslots.  As satirists, we believe that it is our First Amendment right to poke fun at any and all people, groups, organizations and religions and we will continue to defend that right.  Our goal is to make people laugh, and perhaps if we’re lucky, even make them think in the process.  Despite misleading claims from those who would like to claim victory, we have not permantly (sic) shelved the “Bloody Mary” episode from future airings due to outside pressure nor will we exclude it from future DVD releases.

Comedy Central Viewer Services
To Reply:

If these emails are true, with Comedy Central’s emphatic defense of free speech and sensitive respect to religious holidays, we’ll probably see this episode again soon in South Park’s Wednesday night spot (as long as it’s not Ash Wednesday).

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)

We’ll See Chef Again

Filed Under Animation

Those who wondered if Isaac Hayes was offended by the recent South Park episode on Scientology, the AV Club interview with the man himself clears things up:

“I talked to Matt and Trey about that. They didn’t let me know until it was done. I said, “Guys, you have it all wrong. We’re not like that. I know that’s your thing, but get your information correct, because somebody might believe that shit, you know?” But I understand what they’re doing. I told them to take a couple of Scientology courses, and understand what we do. [Laughs.]”

So that would be a “no.” A Scientologist a model for how others should handle religious satire - the mind boggles!

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

“Bloody Mary” pulled. Catholic League Gloats.

Filed Under Animation

The Catholic League has issued a press release commending Comedy Central for pulling the South Park episode “Bloody Mary” and in the same sentence, calling the creators of the episode “bigots.” The Catholic League furthermore claims that Comedy Central’s Executive VP of Corporate Communications Tony Fox stated that there were no plans to rerun to episode. My previous assumption that the episode’s reairing was delayed by the proximity of the holidays was erroneous.

South Park fans are a little uncertain about how they feel, considering a previous episode “Jared Has Aides” was never aired again, only to see the light of day again on the South Park Season 6 DVD. Since the Catholic League’s original demand was for the episode to never appear again on-air or on DVD, fans might want to assume the worst.

Comedy Central’s Viewer Comments Web Form

If you want to see the episode, it is available via BitTorrent at mrtwig.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:18 PM | Comments (2)

South Park Episode Pulled?

Filed Under Animation

Boing Boing has reported that a South Park episode protested by a Catholic group may have been dropped from schedule. However the episode, entitled “Bloody Mary”, is on my current cable schedule for 12:30AM, but it’s not on Comedy Central’s online schedule for tonight or any other night in the near future. That schedule, presumably, should be the most accurate.

It’s uncertain yet what exactly is going on. It may not be clear until 12:30 tonight if the episode has been pulled. (My very smart wife, a lapsed Catholic, points out the episode may just be temporarily removed considering how close this repeat airing is to Christmas.) More to come.

Video from the episode of the Virgin Mary spraying blood on a Catholic church official.

UPDATE: “Bloody Mary” indeed did not air tonight. So far, no gloating from the Catholic League. Earlier they did get Joseph A. Califano, Jr., a practicing Catholic and Viacom (Comedy Central Parent company) board member, to condem the episode. He did, however, leave the the ultimate decision to Viacom President Tom Freston. I imagine the repeat airing is probably delayed until after the holidays, and will probably reair at some date after the dust clears (Matt & Trey carry a lot of weight too). Still, if you disagree with the Catholic League, it might be best to write Comedy Central and let them know.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 04:46 PM | Comments (5)

So Long Homer and Thanks for All the Laughs

Filed Under Animation

I’m done with the Simpsons.

A few years ago when I acquired TiVo, I went on my frenzy of picking shows to record. TiVo users end up watching more TV simply because all of those shows they missed before because they didn’t make them appointment viewing now become anytime shows. The Simpsons, for me, was one of those. I still had a residual attachment but I didn’t remember to tune in. In short order, I caught all the episodes again, just like I did in the show’s incredible first years.

Of course, the show isn’t the same as it was then. Many times it was brilliant. But the misses would grate on me. I was disappointed after South Park’s own fantastic homage to the Simpsons, that the Simpsons would attempt to return the favor and completely miss the mark, lazily dismissing South Park as just fart jokes and bizarre celebrity cameos. Pinpoint satire is still a Simpsons trademark, which made the times that jokes failed to land stand out even more. Even with jokes falling flat on occasion, the show is still good. It’s not the same show as it was before, but it still beats almost all other TV for intelligence and laughs.

Matt Groening points out the key the Simpsons’ longevity is surprise. He’s right. I’m sure there are surprises to be had still, even with 16 years on the air. But with the characters and world so defined, all the surprises will take place inside permutations of Homer’s stupidity, Bart’s brattiness and Lisa’s self-consciousness. How many times can you watch Homer’s marriage be threatened and have it raise the stakes enough to create comedic tension?

One of my theories of why you can’t have a national humor magazine with a hey-day (or lifespan, for that matter) longer than ten years is that eventually, even if quality is maintained, the surprise goes away. It’s a rule that applies to all comedy I think. An audience gets used to the rhythms of the humor, the style. The comedy get co-opted into everything else. The only exception to this rule is Mad Magazine, which has, if they’re not all playing video games or surfing for web porn, a renewable audience… tweens and young teens… getting their first whiff of sarcasm and skepticism about the consumer culture that surrounds them. The Simpson might aspire to a similar life, with young audiences continuing to embrace it as something that gives them the first sense that Thing Aren’t Quite Right.

But I’m done with it. Even with the shows still being enjoyable, watching them accumulate on my DVR has made viewing the Simpsons more of a chore. It’s a little strange to delete a season pass to something that I treasure and use to measure against almost anything funny. But 350 is enough of anything. I’ll be back to check out the episode scripted by Ricky Gervais or a Simpsons movie. I hope the Simpsons keeps on, but this is where I get off.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 02:37 AM | Comments (5)

Wonder Showzen - TV Horrorhouse

Filed Under Animation, Satire, Sketch Comedy

Why TV Funhouse didn’t last confused me. Though its connecting puppet sketches didn’t really work, everything else, the short films and animated parodies, was pretty spot-on. After witnessing MTV2’s Wonder Showzen, I got what TV Funhouse lacked - a firm commitment to its target, children’s television.

The original FOX pilot for TV Funhouse was a full-on Bozo parody with kids in the studio for most of the insanity - including a segment where the camera sweeps through an audience to find a winning child only for it to stop on one tyke and announce “it’s not you!” From that, it’s safe to say, creator Robert Smigel was pretty committed to using the conventions of kid’s show. It was Comedy Central that got nervous (including switching one segment from “Porn to Kids” to “Porn for Everyone”).

Wonder Showzen is a kid’s show in all but title and, of course, content. Kids sing the main theme song and litter nearly all of the dark segments including an investigative report entitled “Beat Kids,” each word labeled across a fist. The show is brilliant - committed to be as horrific as possible with blood poring from dying trees and pictures of dead animals set to chants of children yelling “funny” or “not funny.” The ominous warning that begins every act includes eerie music and, if you listen, screams.

Some bits are ridiculous - bugging everyday people on the street with a puppet just makes the puppeteers look like assholes. But even then, they know it, and target people who deserve to be bothered like impolite cell phone users. The most recent, a visit to find out why people are angry in Harlem was even a good demonstration of how bad race relations still are.

The show even knows when it goes over the edge and calls itself on it. One cartoon featuring a song about celebrating differences includes “ooga-booga” African tribesmen and “Ching Chong” Chinamen is followed by a six-year-old saying, with perfect inflection, “Oh, I get it. Your racism is ironic.” The show is childlike clarity in form, but it has adult ambivalence and pain underlay every part.

It’s a shame it’s buried someplace like MTV2, but that might be the only reason why we’re seeing it at all. If you don’t get the channel, check out some segments here (wmv) or a bootleg of the original pilot here. And for the brave, check out the creators’ fantastically trippy site.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 09:47 AM | Comments (5)
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