Ugly Americans (The Television Show, I mean (no politics))
The premise of this show starts from Shadowrun — you remember the game, where magic and tech coexist, and people spend a lot of time hacking and otherwise doing illicit activities? Well, this is the sunny-side of the whole shebang — and fittingly set in New York City. Because where else do you have zombies and devils and floating brains — and a weird guy from Croatia?
Spoilers follow: The plot isn’t the point of this crazy show, so I’m not going to worry about keeping this clean.
Mark works at the Department of Integration — he’s a social worker and counselor, which means he’s pretty much the whitebread boring character. Also, the “I could be this guy” audience fill-in.
He’s got a roommate who’s a zombie — and generally doesn’t try to eat his brains. When you’re already dead, it’s time to partay! Yup, you guessed it, Randall the Roommate is the guy most likely to “spice up an episode” with something Completely Crazy (Did he walk out of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?? Is he even aware he’s on the wrong set?)
Mark has a devilish (literally) relationship with Callie Maggotbone, a half demon half human girl with emotional mood swings. She’s kinda the anti-Spock, delighting in being Evil — and yet secretly kinda attracted to Mark, possibly because her daddy hates him.
That’s the setup, and it works, in a zany sort of way. The writing’s tolerable — in the sense that it’s nearly never wince inducing, and doesn’t get in the way of the awesome. You won’t be rolling in laughter, but sometimes the characters are just plain funny to hang around.
In a lot of senses, this show is the Anti-Simpsons. Where the Simpsons had killer writing, this has killer art. (One of the best episodes playfully kicks around some of the art, pulling out a background character that the artists used in a lot of widely varying settings, and telling his story. Predictably, it’s a little haywire). You’ll seriously want to pause this and look at some of the references. Whenever the writing takes a backseat to the drawing, you’ll be having a wild time. [“An American Werewolf in America” features an extended shot of New York gang fights… between the Irish and the Vampires. Impalements by unicorn horns ensue. In another episode, the Wizard of Copyright Infringement shows up.]
Speaking of references, the writing likes them too. You get your Journey through the Human Body (featuring Human-Scale Amoebas, with tantalizing visual design). Your sports movie, parodies of different mages (Mark’s coworker is a wizard. An alcoholic wizard. He’s not a terribly effective wizard, you understand — and he forgot about his apprentice entirely, with predictably angsty results). The police chief (Grimes)’s mummy reappears… as an actual mummy. Of course you have a Catskills parody — this is a NY show! This show is a love letter to New York — not New New York, or Old New York, just New York, cinematic and otherwise. The New York where Manbirds imprint on someone with such a potty-mouth that the only words they learn are “Suck my balls!” (they make an entire language out of this phrase). The New York where weregirls live in the sewers, and where you can wear anything and not get a second glance.
This show does parody at its finest, always managing to hit you with another curve ball. Not only does Mark start to transform into a BatBoy, Grimes hires the Koala as his sidekick — to bite him if he gets too batty. Mark thinks he’s being anonymous, but everyone knows his number.
The show’s inventive, and though sometimes it works better when the writers shut up, there’s a lot of fun to be had. This is yet another “what’s really going on when you’re not playing?”, and the results are unpredictable, zany and sometimes gut-bustingly funny.
An American Werewolf in America.
Wet Hot Demonic Summer.
Fools For Love
**As always, there may be biased reporting, conflicts of interest — disclosed or undisclosed. Watch an episode, and you’ll know whether you like it or not — it’s less than half an hour, for Gods sakes!
(Picture is an intertitle from the show itself. Used under a fair use rationale.)