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“Home Movies” Worth Seeing

Animated series finds a new home on cable.

by S.E. Shepherd
January 3, 2002

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“Home Movies” Worth Seeing_S.E. Shepherd-Animated series finds a new home on cable. Somewhere back in the year 1999, the fledging UPN network took a risk on a new animated series. Touted as a new “Simpsons,” “Home Movies” failed to capture an audience and, like many other UPN original series, was canceled and shelved before it ran a full season. Luckily for those of us that have cable, it has resurfaced as part of the Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” programming (Sundays & Thursdays 10pm Eastern/9pm Central).

Comparisons to the “Simpsons,” though inevitable, are unfair. Yes, both shows revolve around dysfunctional families, centering on the adventures of a grade-school boy, but this is where the similarities end. Unlike Bart Simpson, Brendon Small is the product of a single mother who is trying to raise both her son and infant daughter. The whereabouts of Brendan’s father are (at least in the episodes I’ve seen) not mentioned. Brendon is not an under-achieving smart-alek; rather he is an awkward fourth-grader whose passion is making movies with his friends (hence the title).

Also, the humor is very different; whereas “The Simpsons” uses parody and satire of the American family, “Home Movies” derives its humor from dialog and deadpan delivery. In one episode, where Brandon is trying to find a disease to “have” so the school nurse will let him go home, he comes up with scurvy. “Only pirates get scurvy,” Brendon’s friend replies. “Yeah, pirates and me!” retorts Brendon, “hey that’s a good movie title, write that down; ‘Pirates & Me!”

In another episode, Brendon is convinced he needs a fish-eye lens to make his alien movie, but his friend feels the stilted dialogue is the problem, “I mean, if I’m really her father, would I call her ‘Daughter,’ or would I just use her name?”

“Home Movies” owes its humor more to its predecessor, “Dr. Katz” which aired on cable’s Comedy Central network. Indeed, the same producers behind “Dr. Katz” helped create “Home Movies” and both share the infamous “SquiggleVision” style of animation. (For those unfamiliar with SquiggleVision, the animation is purposely crude, as the outlines of characters and objects continue to move, even when the character is standing still) Also like “Katz,” the scripts are often improvisations from idea outlines that are later put together to form a coherent plot.

However, the formula seems to work better on “Home Movies,” maybe because of the premise (young kids making videos to entertain themselves would of course be crude and unscripted), or maybe because “Dr. Katz” served more as a show for guest comedians to do their routines as patients of Katz. Whatever the reason, the voice talents of “Home Movies” thrive with this style and their comical timing is impeccable.

Unable to find an audience on network programming, “Home Movies” is perhaps best suited for cable. Not that it is racy or offensive; rather it is offbeat and quirky, needing a special niche where audiences can find it when they’re ready. If you’re lucky enough to have cable and are looking for a slightly different comedy, check out “Home Movies” on the Cartoon Network. If you don’t have cable, ask a friend to tape it; you’ll be glad you did.

Comments (2)

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Katzfan writes:
January 7, 2002
Thanks to S.E. Shepherd for alerting me to Home Movies. I was a Dr. Katz fan and like the fact that Home Movies has a similar tone and pacing. I watched two episodes last Thursday and an apparently newer episode on Sunday. I was surprised that the newer episode was not drawn in squigglevision. The cleaner animation looks fine and probably appeals to a wider audience, but for some reason I kinda liked the squiggle. Maybe I'm just a little nostalgic for Kr. Katz.

Mel from Toronto, Canada writes:
March 3, 2002
I think that you have done the world a favour for alerting other about this show. It's hilarious. I came across it while watching tv at 1:00am. It was luck. Here in Canada it's on at 12:30am on Fridays and Saturday at 1:00am on channel 25(YTV). I think that if you have a sense of humour, you'll love this show. Jason's character is quite possibly the funniest...he just delivers those hilarious one liners. It's all he has to say.

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