One And Done: Birchum

birchum one and doneAdam Carolla’s a popular radio host in the US and also the co-creator of prank show Crank Yankers, and way back in his radio days he created the character of the cranky woodwork teacher Mr Birchum, who he later used him in Crank Yankers. Then back in 2011 he attempted to give the character his own animated sitcom for Fox, though this nine minute pilot was never picked up for a full series.

In many ways it feels quite King of the Hill-esque, but the problem is that it’s lacking any nuance or subtlety, and most centres around Birchum moaning away about something or other. So you get him complaining about how kids are today and wishing for simpler times in a monotonous manner, while he insults the fat kids in his woodwork class and mocks a student for not being a rock star, and it’s really not that funny at all, even when said student hits back with “Rock is dead Grandpa, I’m going to be a video game designer”.

There’s a very vague plot about the Principal using drug sniffing dogs except that they’ve been retrained to sniff out peanut butter, as the school is more worried about kids with allergies than drugs these days apparently, and after complaining about this Birchum is sent to a sensitivity training session. But this just allows Carolla to create some rather weak and borderline unpleasant jokes where Birchum says something offensive and we’re supposed to be amused by his out of touch ways, though I doubt anyone was.

We’re briefly introduced to his wife who’s largely supportive of him, claiming “Every day you don’t kill one of them is a victory”, while his step-daughter seems fond of him as well as she’s a miniature female version of the man. Also present is Birchum’s slacker son, who Birchum mocks for attending Junior College and claiming that it’s just “High School with ashtrays”, which is yet another example of the rather poor gags you’ll find in the pilot.

There’s a vaguely funny bit where Birchum shows his students a safety film featuring “Nuthead the wood shop safety dummy” who starts off by saying “I bet you’re wondering why I don’t have any fingers” and it’s not long before the students are appalled by what they see, but that’s about the only funny moment and the rest of the episode is just Birchum whining away on various subjects, and never to amusing effect.

The problem the show has is that it seems to want us to feel sympathetic to Birchum, for him to be the hero of the piece, but his various rants are so tedious and tiresome that it’s impossible to do so. If the show had given him even the occasional moment of vulnerability or depth than this might have been something which could have made in to an engaging and amusing show, but as it is it’s no surprise that Fox weren’t interested in developing it further.

★★

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
You can watch the pilot for Birchum on Youtube here.

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