Back in the dorms at college, I could expect there to be a knock on my door every night at around 10:50. It would be one of my neighbors trying to corral everyone to watch Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup on the lounge TV. I think the reason why we always had to all watch it simultaneously was because that way no one could feasibly complain about the noise from all of the raucous laughter. Anyway, I enjoyed some of it although the shows that wrung humor from random nonsense grated on my nerves after a while. The only show that I found on Adult Swim that made me return to it outside of our nightly groupthink was Home Movies. It was a quieter show, a more thoughtful show, the kind of show that wouldn't end an episode with a character being hacked to pieces with a chainsaw for no reason unlike all the other shows that followed it on the schedule. Since then, I have been happily snapping up the well-produced DVD box sets, and I really must talk about the third season set which is my personal favorite.
For the uninitiated, Home Movies is about a young boy, his camera, and his unquenchable dreams (and also his friends and his harried single mother and his slovenly soccer coach). Eight-year-old Brendon Small spends his spare time acting, directing, editing, and co-executive producing his own short films with his two school chums (It kind of makes you wonder about what you did when you were his age. I was hitting fireflies in my backyard with a wiffleball bat, mostly). The movies themselves, though usually ending up as subplots, are always memorable and prove to be one of the show's most defining elements. Plus, no matter what genre of film you can think of, from Hammer House-style horror to Memento-esque twisted thrillers, you can bet that Brendon, Jason and Mellissa can cobble the props and costumes together from household products and lawn gnomes and film it for your viewing pleasure. Rounding out the primary cast is Brendon's ersatz father-figure Coach McGuirk, the oft-described "youth soccer coach who hates soccer and isn't all that crazy about youths". He's a lazy sod, he constantly dispenses bad advice and utter non-wisdom (like my review's title), and basically he should join the ranks of TV's most lovable depraved reprobates, like Bender from Futurama, Larry from Three's Company, or Dr. Troy from Nip/Tuck.
The main draw of this set, of course, is that the third season contains easily the best episodes that the show had to offer. The premiere, Shore Leave, features extremely good animation for a show that's actually rather crudely drawn; the climactic moment that crosses references from El Mariachi and the Graduate is an absolute highlight of the series. Renaissance, which is about a heated rivalry between a Renaissance Festival and a Sci-Fi Convention, was like a wet dream for my nerdy self (Mental Note: show this episode at my D&D game this Friday). Guitarmageddon may have lifted the plot from the Karate Kid but it features some blistering guitar riffs from Brendon Small (The actor, not the character. The character can't actually play worth a lick, as you'll see). Finally, in Time to Pay the Price, the kids' trip to a minimum security prison for a Scared Straight program is totally overshadowed by a .6 second-long shot of the main cast dressed as the X-Men (McGuirk as Colossus! Jason as Wolverine with colored pencils coming out of the back of his gloves! Brilliant! Plus there's a new rendition of that scene of the cover of the second slipcase! This is the best DVD set ever!). Alright, so I'm a little biased towards that episode, but I can say with total objectivity that the other nine shows on this set are all great too, you can trust me on that.
What's also great are the extras. You've got commentaries on select episodes from Small and co-creator Loren Brouchard. They may not be as thorough and involving as your average Simpsons commentary, but I thought they were each worth a listen (By the way, the commentary of Time to Pay the Price sounds like it's going to be one long jazz fusion ad lib from start to finish. Don't worry though; they actually start talking once the second act starts). The Decide-Your-Doom game is a cute expansion on the Renaissance show with new inspired artwork that features almost every character that's ever been on the program. If you persevere and reach all three endings, you'll unlock Easter Eggs that you may have missed from the earlier box sets. Last and definitely not least, we have an NPR radio interview of Loren and cast member H. Jon Benjamin. Between Jon's ludicrous robot voice modulation machine and his tragically flawed improv acting lessons with the call-in Petey, I was pretty much rolling on the floor and laughing the whole way.
Why do I like Home Movies so much? I think it's because it combines some of the best aspects of the most popular current animated shows. It has the simple but distinctive animation style plus the extremely precocious kids angle of South Park, the off-the-cuff pop culture references of Family Guy, and the well-developed characters and writing of the Simpsons. It really is a shame that the show never found its niche and lasted only four seasons (Personally, I blame the eye-straining Squigglevision and sub-par unscripted episodes of the first season on UPN). It will be a little cathartic to pick up the final DVD box set when it comes out, especially since the final episode is one of the saddest series finales since the Ice Age killed off all of the dinosaurs on Dinosaurs.
That's why I wanted to take the time to talk about the superlative third season now. Well, Home Movies, at least we'll always have the student's lounge.