Okay, this comedy from Trey Parker and Matt Stone (though only written by Parker) technically should be in a section called Two and Done as two pilots were produced, but as both are so similar I’ve included it here. And you can’t stop me, at least unless you own a shotgun or a big knife or something. Made in 1995 shortly after they’d gained some fame after creating the low budget mess Cannibal The Musical this featured a fair few of the cast from that film (including Toddy Walters, Dian Bachar and Jason McHugh) and was also a musical romp.
The first pilot revolved around a comedy retelling of Aaron and Moses’s quest to free the Hebrews (presented by an old guy who pops up on occasion to move the plot forward), although the dialogue is unsurprisingly modern and the songs daft and fun. As regular readers will know I’m a big fan of musicals, and used to like South Park a lot, but Cannibal The Musical was so puerile and the songs so naff that I didn’t get on with it. This is a lot better though, they have fun with much biblical silliness and the characters are endearingly daft, while the songs are catchy affairs and far better than those found in Cannibal.
It starts with Moses and his brother Aaron trying to convince the Pharaoh that the Hebrews be freed, and as Moses gives speeches which are all a bit rubbish Aaron gets the job of convincing people to go along with them. The songs are the highlight, with an ode to why God chose Moses rather than Aaron being the funniest, but there’s lots of silly slapstick (including a good few stonings), overly dramatic performances and spoofing of sitcom conventions which make it amusing too. Half way through the episode Moses and Aaron succeed in convincing the Pharoh to free the Hebrews but he doesn’t stick to his promise and chaos ensues, along with a song from the Pharoh about how wonderful he is that’s also extremely amiable, but as I’m sure all will know the story eventually has a happy ending and nothing bad ever happened to the Jewish race ever again.
Anyone expecting Parker’s trademark twistedness is going to walk away disappointed but it’s a very likeable affair with hints of Monty Python, though it’s not as surreal or as subversive as Python were at their best. Unfortunately for some unknown reason the Network heads decided they didn’t like the show that much but rather than ditch the idea completely they thought it would work better as a kids tv show, and so gave Parker more money to make a child friendly pilot even though at least by today’s standards there’s nothing in the first that would upset anyone over the age of three and they’d probably have liked it a lot back then too.
The second pilot is the show as if it was made by a kid suffering from ADHD who’s had his Ritalin stolen, opening with a frenzied song about how Time Warped is your favourite show. The presenter’s on hand once again to explain boring things, and it’s not even close to being as funny as the first pilot, a lot of the humour is just really weak slapstick and bad jokes. It’s not all bad, this is Trey Parker after all, but it’s definitely something of a disappointment after the first version. Ditching the Biblical setting this time it’s set at the dawn of humanity and follows Jul, a cavegirl who’s trying to make fire much to the disbelief of her father. She also tries to help out Rom, a neanderthal who keeps on falling in to tar pits and looks like an extra from a very low budget off Broadway version of Planet of the Apes.
There’s some creepy romance between the two and a romantic song which is cute enough and contains the first laugh of the episode as Rom tries and fails to sing, and as the plot develops it becomes clear that it’s Parker’s take on Romeo and Juliet, at least if Romeo had severe learning disabilities and it had a very different ending. It does improve a little once it gets over the initial stages with a decent running joke about Rom’s Dad’s terrible memory, Jul dressing up as a woolly mammoth made me laugh, and there is a great cameo from a famous literary figure at the end, but it’s really nothing that special.
Ignoring the slightly weak second pilot and concentrating on the first, when it comes to tv musicals they’ve notoriously nearly always been unpopular, with the majestic Galavant being cancelled after two short seasons and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend only lasting for four as despite very low ratings the heads of CW have fantastic taste in tv (plus it’s won lots of awards which I’m sure helps), so I’ve doubts as to whether the first version of the show would have been a hit and I’m certain it would have in no way become as iconic as South Park. But I would loved to have seen at least one or two seasons of the show, there wasn’t enough plain idiotic and joyfully frivolous comedy on at the time and this potentially could have been really enjoyable stuff.
The pilots are up on youtube in four parts here.