I’ve realized that, although I love animation, I have yet to write about any animated series on this blog (except for a couple of mentions in this entry on my favorite pilots).
I started thinking about why this is. There are a couple of characteristics that make animated series a little different from other series in the pilot department. Animated series tend to have more emphasis on the plot-per-episode than on a longer story arc. In other words, nothing much changes episode to episode. Bart Simpson has been in fourth grade for 20 years, for chrissake. So the pilot is not necessarily distinguishable from later episodes.
Also, animated series are often based on existing properties, like comic book or film characters, who don’t need a lot of introduction. There are some obvious exceptions to this, like Seth MacFarlane’s brain candy or earlier, Futurama (great pilot).
I couldn’t decide what animated series to start with, but then I happily discovered a little show from the creator of Scrubs, Bill Lawrence, called Clone High. There were 13 episodes, which aired during the 2002-03 season on MTV, and it still airs in Canada, according to www.clone-high.com.
It’s the first day back at a high school where all of the students are young, contemporary versions of historical figures. There’s Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), Joan of Arc (Christa Miller, Mahatma Ghandi, John F. Kennedy (Chris Miller), Cleopatra (Nicole Sullivan), and—you gotta love this—two Elvises, one young/thin and the other old/fat. Already you know by the wackiness of the premise this show is going to be different, as well as irreverent. In the first moments we get a crude sexual joke from JFK, and a drug use bit from old/fat Elvis, and learn that Ghandi is a lech. The animation looks a bit like Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends with the sharp angles and bold outlines.
Each character falls into a high school social category. JFK is a handsome jock, Abe Lincoln is a gangly nerd, Joan of Arc is a down to earth do-gooder, Cleo is the popular chick, etc. There’s a love triangle: Joan likes Abe, who likes Cleopatra. (Who wouldn’t, right?)
The principal, Dr. Scudworth is pulling the strings. He is visited by someone from the military and we learn, in case it wasn’t obvious from the title, that the students are clones. They were created by the government, though we’re not yet told why. The pricipals office comes equipped with test tubes and other mad scientist paraphernalia. And he’s nuts.
There are lots of whimsical little details, like the diner where they hang out is called the Grassy Knoll. Van Gogh calls the school suicide hotline.
The episode plot has to do with Abe supplying a keg of non-alcoholic beer for the Big Party, but it appears the real story will be the aforementioned love triangle. We’re also told that Marilyn Manson will make an appearance next week. If the pilot is any indication, this show is funny, edgy, and has plenty of room for political commentary. I’m hooked, and can’t wait to watch the remaining episodes.
Memorable line: “Hey man, Ghandi’s anti-violence, not anti-comedy.”