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Good Shows: Clone High

Now, you’ve all listened to me go on and on about the shows, books, etc. that I enjoy, but you may be wondering why I don’t review things I don’t like. While it may be funnier to do negative reviews and I haven’t ruled out the possibility of doing so (especially since I’m still mulling over doing a few reviews on the mediocre-at-best Animorphs TV series), I prefer to focus on good things that are worth your time thinking about rather than the crap that time is better off forgetting. After all, there are many reviewers out there who can tell you what you should stay away from, most of them much funnier than me. Everything I’ve mentioned so far on this blog are things I enjoy that you should take the time to check out, either by buying the book, finding the DVDs, viewing the videos online, or whatever.

However, since it’s relevant to today’s review, I will mention one thing I don’t like. For the most part, I hate teen high school dramas. Not all teen dramas, but most of them I utterly and completely despise. There are a ton of them but the ones that come to my mind immediately are Dawson’s Creek, Beverly Hills 90210, and the OC. By and large, they’re melodramatic, star actors who look like they’ve been out of high school for about twelve years, take themselves way too seriously, and focus on characters who are annoying, angsty, selfish, stupid, and are generally terrible human beings like…well, like most people you probably remember from high school. I guess you could argue that last bullet point is the intention of most teen dramas and even though most teens go through phases like that, they do grow out of them and, even then, no one teen is exactly the same while most of these shows seem to focus on the typical angsty or selfish teen stereotypes you’ve seen over and over again.

Now, I want to say that not ALL teen dramas are bad. I myself like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (mostly because it mixes high school drama with beating the living apes*** out of supernatural creatures all while watching rich characters created by the always entertaining Joss Wheaton) and I’ve seen some of the various Degrassi incarnations which, while they still occassionally fall into the pitfalls I mention, succeed a lot better than most and at least try to develop their characters in interesting ways (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t). But at some point, we’ve all seen one or two teen dramas and almost immediately recognize the cliches that run rampent in them. So it’s always refreshing when a show comes along and devotes itself to mercilessly making fun of every single possible stupid thing about those shows. Which brings us to today’s show. Enter: Clone High.

Tonight, on a very special Clone High...

 

Clone High was a short lived animated series that aired on MTV (which incidentally happens to be another thing I…hate now, but I believed this aired just before the network completely went down the crapper). The premise is both interesting, offbeat, and completely ridiculous on its own, which is described at the beginning of every episode with a theme song that never gets out of your freaking head. Back in the 80’s, a secret board of shadowy government officials literally called “the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures” commissions a completely insane mad scientist named Doctor Scudsworth to clone famous historical figures to eventually be used in a clone army. The clones are made and grow in a secret small town where they are raised by foster parents, and have now all grown into teenagers who, naturally, have to go to high school. Scudsworth acts as the power-mad principal while secretly planning to instead take the clones and use them in an expensive clone themed amusement park, which is just as stupid and insane as it sounds (however, considering Scudsworth is portrayed as a complete and utter nutball whose mind does not even remotely operate within the confines of reality throughout the entire course of the series, it fits).

The main characters, aside from Scudsworth and his robot butler Mr. Butlertron (did I not mention this show was a tad weird?) are all clones of famous historical figures who not only know they are clones, but try to live up to them…only to fail utterly since almost every character is completely different from the figure they are cloned of. For example, the main characters are Abe Lincoln, a guy who has delusions of being sensitive when he really is just shallow boy who only cares about hooking up with Cleopatra, who is our stereotypical over the top shallow yet popular mean girl in this program. Cleo however is in a relationship with JFK, who is a jerky jock kid who only cares about sex. Abe is completely oblivious to the obvious affections of his best friend Joan of Arc, who is a cynical angst ridden goth girl who happens to the voice of reason. And then there is Abe’s other best friend, Ghandi, who is a hyperactive party animal. So in case you couldn’t tell, pretty much every clone in the main cast now has a personality based on a typical teen drama archetype, which allows the show to better parody the genre.

Now, you may have noticed there’s a pattern in my reviews where I will gravitate towards works with strong character development with a surprising amount of depth. Clone High has none of that. At all. But what it is is a very well done parody of teen dramas that satirizes just about every single bad thing about the genre which manages to still be hilarious on its own. It’s not deep, but its not supposed to be (in fact, it’s partially the entire point since it brutally mocks how serious some characters take whats happening around them). But it is damn funny.

Every episode (which is always introduced as a “very special” episode) basically takes an idea from a typical teen drama plot (going to prom, dealing with drugs and peer pressure, entering a student election) and takes the ridiculousness of it up to 11. For example, in one episode where they deal with peer pressure, the “drug” Abe and his friends are being pressured to try is not weed or LSD or anything. It’s raisins. The teens smoke raisins. Not only that, but they apparently have hallucinogenic properties since they send Ghandi on the weirdest drug trip sequence this side of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And then the raisins are perceived as such a threat that the PTA builds a giant wall around the school to keep the raisin pusher out. And the entire episode is told in the style of a rock opera. Every episode is just that weird, taking those standard tired plots and exaggerating them to the nth degree, with hilarious if weird results.

The plots for each episode aren’t the only thing the show exaggerates. Like I mentioned, Joan of Arc is obviously in love with the oblivious main character Abe, which is a very typical plot device in teen drama as well. Even this is exaggerated and played with to a ridiculous extent. It isn’t just that Joan is hinting she likes Abe. She basically outright TELLS him several times and he somehow still doesn’t get it. The first episode even has a dialogue between the two that goes something like this (“The point is a woman is attracted to me and I’m not going to ignore it!” “Abe, I want you…” “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.” “Um…” “Lost your train of thought? Happens to me all the time.”) Abe’s delusion of being the “sensitive” character when really he’s just shallow and a complete idiot is also exaggerated. He will often try to give a heartwrenching or stirring speech with elaborate metaphors not unlike main characters of other teen dramas, but every single one of his speeches is awful and makes little to no sense. Every show is full of jokes like this and, even if you’re not familiar with the teen drama conventions it’s parodying, it’s still funny. Not to mention the show is filled with other weird and entertaining jokes that are either just plain funny or make fun of how the cloned historical figures differ from their real life counterparts. If you know anything about history at all, there will be quite a few gags you’ll find hilarious, even the ones that cross the line. In fact my favorite joke in the entire show should make me feel like a horrible person, but somehow doesn’t. You can see it in the following video (the actual joke starts at about 1:03).

It would take me forever to say all the reasons why this show is funny, but I think it’s better if you experience it yourself. Like I said before, it’s not a deep show, but it is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, even though it only lasted 13 episodes. It wasn’t popular at the time and is still relatively obscure, but you can find all the episodes on DVD. Although the DVD is only available in Canada, you can order it from Amazon, and it is well worth it. You can also find the episodes uploaded to Youtube. Although we can argue the legality and moral implications of looking at old TV shows online, I do urge you to check them out and, if you enjoy the series, to consider purchasing the DVD. I’m sure you won’t be dissappointed.

Once again, I would like to leave you by putting up some links to my personal favorite episodes in the series. Since there are only 13 episode total and I like pretty much all of them, I will try to be brief.

Abe and JFK run against each other for student body president. Like every other episode in the series, it gets out of hand and over the top very quickly, leading to smeer campaigning and sleezy campaign sponsorship by a company that markets a product called X-Treme Blue (which is itself an amusing though slightly dated parody of xtreme marketing during the 90s). It also features a guest star spot by Marilyn Manson, who (and I am dead serious about this) at the end of the episode sings an upbeat, children’s show-esque song about the food pyramid. And yes, that really is Marilyn Manson and no, I did not make that last part up. I personally don’t care much about Marilyn Manson, but even I think that it’s really funny. The actual song is catchy too. This video only links to the first part of the episode, but you can find the other two parts linked to it in the related videos.

This episode, aside from having my favorite joke in the whole series that I mentioned earlier, is pretty funny. The clones prepare for a standardized test called the PXJTs which is played as the most serious thing ever (Scudsworth even says “FAIL THE PXJTS AND YOUR LIFE WILL BE RUINED FOREVER!”) Meanwhile, Abe gets no sleep for many days, which everyone seems to treat as an alcohol addiction allegory (which again, everyone seems to think is the most serious problem ever despite how ridiculous it is). Pretty funny episode.

This is the peer pressure drug episode I mentioned earlier in the review. The one about raisins that is told in the style of a rock opera. It’s a rather trippy show, especially every part involving Ghandi’s weird raisin trip, but it’s an amusing over-the-top parody of those types of episodes and the songs in the episode are funny and catchy as well. In fact, almost all the music in this show is catchy too. Not exactly as catchy as the stuff in Home Movies, but still pretty damn good.

I could go on, but since there are only 13 episodes, I’ll just post links to those two. If you enjoy them, I urge you to check some of the others out and buy the DVD if you really enjoy them. It’s a good show and I hope you find it as funny as I did.

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Categories: tv Tags: , , ,
  1. January 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I can’t understand why this show didn’t make it. I remember laughing my ass off in each episode… Well, at least is on youtube now.

  1. January 19, 2011 at 11:40 pm

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