A stop motion series which spoofs various celebrities, tv programmes and films that isn’t called Robot Chicken? Yep, it’s all true, as this effort from Canada preceded Adult Swim’s show by a year and yet it seems to be largely forgotten about despite Mark Hamill voicing one of the lead characters, Stephen Colbert, Amy Sedaris and Laura Dern providing some of the impersonations, and the writing team including Michael Showalter, Demetri Martin, Strangers With Candy creator Paul Dinello and Daria creator Glenn Eichler. So when it comes to the cast and crew it’s damn impressive stuff. But as Forrest MacNeil would ask, is it any good?
The answer to that is yes, yes it is, but I’d only give it 3 and a half stars as it’s something of a mixed bag at times, some skits misfire or just don’t go anywhere, but some sketches are surprisingly effective. The following is a review of the first episode to give you an idea of what it’s like, and as with every episode it’s framed as an E! style entertainment magazine where the two hosts present the latest news. It begins with some fun nonsense from the co-hosts, both of whom spend the episode overacting in the hope of getting a cameo in a big budget blockbuster, with Hamill a particular delight here as he relishes being so silly and over the top. Then the first spoof of the show is of A Beautiful Mind except here it’s entitled A Beautiful Behind, which yes, is a bit of lazy wordplay but they go all in on the daftness and create a good few laughs out of it. After all, who wouldn’t find a sexy arse doing maths funny? Many people including your good self? Well you should give the show a go as it does actually work.
The Teddy Kennedy Experiment follows, which takes the piss out of the long forgotten prank series The Jame Kennedy Experiment except that here Kennedy is so inept he screws up each prank. There’s a couple of cute jokes about Hilary Clinton not being tricked in to eating goat’s eyes and receiving oral sex from an unknown intern, and a fun cameo from Dick Cheney too, all of which make it entertaining material. Then there’s a quick round up of forthcoming movies which features throwaway jokes about Finding Nemoy, 28 Days After, 28 Days Later After, and a brief bit of showbiz news with the allegation that Joan Rivers is now indistinguishable from a surprised iguana after yet more plastic surgery, all of which led to a good few brief smirks.
After this there’s a segment called “Where Are They Right This Minute?” which calls in on Michael Richards and sees the former sitcom star obsessively hating Seinfeld and breastfeeding a fake baby. It’s soon violent and twisted stuff, but also very funny, and as it was made three years before the infamous racist incident it doesn’t cross the line in to uncomfortable territory in the way I’m sure Robot Chicken would have. Also a huge amount of fun is Special Weapons and Tactics As Well As The Ability To Appraise Antiques (or S.W.A.T.A.W.A.T.A.T.A.A. for short) which is the episode’s best sketch as it mixes Antiques Roadshow with a cop drama, and if they made it an ongoing series I’d have happily watched such a thing.
On the downside a couple of bits just don’t work. There’s a supposed bit of satire of American Idol with a show called American Idle but it doesn’t really go anywhere you wouldn’t expect and is laugh free. A skit on Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight, here called Project Stoplight, is a patchy affair too, mocking the Hollywood pitching process with producers / studio heads not giving a toss about anything and stealing other people’s ideas, it’s okay, with the final punchline working, but it’s not a strong enough concept to take up the time that it does. Also something of a curiosity is a bit on Lars Von Trier’s Sob Story, which they claim is Von Trier’s attempt to make the saddest story of all time, it’s amusing but Von Trier is an odd choice to mock considering whilst his work is often bleak it’s not commercial in the way Sob Story is portrayed to be.
Given those involved you might have expected something a little more consistently funny but it is definitely worthy of your time, even if the odd sketch is a bit bland, and it is a shame that only one series was ever made. It’s also disappointing that Robot Chicken didn’t take a page from it’s book and not go for shock humour all too often, as The Wrong Coast proves you can parody the entertainment industry in far more creative ways.
The second episode is on youtube here.