The Adult Swim story, part 2 - the classic, Home Movies
Well here we are at part two of the Adult Swim story and we still haven't got to Adult Swim yet. Adult Swim and what it becomes grows out of a fusion between the Cartoon Network and Soup2Nuts, the production company who made Dr Katz and this, Home Movies - one of the greatest animated sitcoms ever made.
It's a bold claim, and smacks of wild invective, but it's justified. Repeat viewings never fail to reward you - it's one of those shows that you see different things in as you get older. Like a favourite film or book or piece of music; as you change your attitude to these things change. You appreciate things you didn't even know were there before.
It's that good.
The first thing that needs mentioning is H.Jon Benjamin. He played Dr Katz’s son in that show (covered in the previous article here - click) and now he shows up again as one of the 3 main characters. Some people aren't great with names but he's gone on to have an extremely successful career in comedy, specialising particularly in voice-over work for animation. He's Archer in… Archer; he's Bob in Bob's Burgers. He randomly pops up in things like Aqua Teen Hunger Force. So he ended up being a pretty big deal.
The main driving force behind Home Movies though became a guy, an auteur really, called Brendon Small. When he started working with producer Loren Bouchard it led to something spectacular.
Bouchard caught Small’s act at a comedy club and cast him in the pilot, the follow-up to Dr Katz, of Home Movies.
UPN commissioned the show, screened 5 episodes, and then promptly cancelled it - this was 1999. Fortunately the Cartoon Network saw in it a show of quality and purchased the rights. A year and a half later, toward the back end of 2001, Home Movies debuted on the Cartoon Network's new adult targeted night-time programming block.
The show shared similarities with Dr Katz in a few ways, though a number of these disappeared and evolved through time. The first season features Katz’s Sqigglevision presentation - to add some feeling of movement to mostly static images - basically several versions of the same image are drawn but each is slightly different. When looped the effect is that everything sort of vibrates. It creates the illusion of there being more movement than there is, at minimal cost. They retained it for one season and then ditched it; deciding that the new art style carried the show well-enough. The vague scripts stayed though and allowed, particularly Small and Benjamin, (in various guises) to play off each other - often with unexpected and hilarious results (clearly their main intention occasionally is just to make the other laugh). And Jonathan Katz makes occasional cameo appearances as Melissa's dad.
All the music is performed by Small, including the theme, something that carried on into a later Adult Swim show of his - Metalocalypse.
Brendon gets roped into filming Dwayne's (an older student) rock opera. About Franz Kafka.
Home Movies is about three 8 year old children who make films with an old VHS video camera. They are usually ripoffs of films Brendon must have seen on TV and then claims to be his own work - Casablanca, Mad Max, Rambo and even foreign art - house movies. Brandon typically does all the writing and directing with him and best friends Melissa and Jason starring in them.
The show had a number of standout supporting characters - the most important being Coach, the coach of the school football team. He's 40, lives alone, is often drunk and talks to the kids as if they were adults about all sorts of inappropriate topics. Informed his Uncle Pedro has died and that he needs to to the morgue to identify the body he asks the kids if anyone will go with him (Brendon ends up going).
Coach gets sent to court-mandated anger therapy. Featuring the sorely missed Mitch Hedburg.
Among other characters of note are Walter and Perry - two unrelated boys who wear identical outfits (always the same thing - it's hard to describe - picture below) who are often holding hands and speak with high-pitched voices and often speak in unison. They're usually used very sparingly and are generally portrayed as being harmless if somewhat annoying; with the exception of one episode in the final season when the main characters decide to hang out with them for a day and it becomes clear that they are borderline psychotic - killing butterflies for fun, shop-lifting and the like. We thought we knew them and then - bam - we really didn't.
"I love you, Walter". "I love you too, Perry!"
Guest stars included Paul F Tompkins, Mitch Hedburgh, Emo Philips, Louis C.K (as Brendon’s estranged dad), Laura Silverman and many more - many who had previously appeared on Dr Katz.
The show ran for 4 seasons and a total of 52 episodes and just got better and better as it went along with the better episodes coming after season one. The show kept the improv but became a little more scripted, making for a show with better developed themes - not that the first season isn't great; you still need to watch those.
If you're a fan of something like Bob's Burgers you need to watch this; you'll enjoy the heck out of it.
Next article in the series - we finally get to Adult Swim itself.