Not every animated primetime series can be as lucky as “Family Guy.” Well-written, hilarious shows like “Futurama” and “The Critic” – just about every primetime cartoon but “The Simpsons” and “South Park” – have met untimely ends. High DVD sales put “Family Guy” back on the air, but some cartoons end up on store shelves, where they can be enjoyed at leisure by the fans who kept them going.
“Home Movies” is one of these underappreciated animated gems: This quirky cartoon-for-grownups, featuring eight-year-old Brendon (creator and writer Brendon Small) who makes short films with his friends Melissa (Melissa Galsky) and Jason (H. Jon Benjamin), was originally picked up by UPN in 1999. Only six episodes aired in the show’s first run, but Cartoon Network picked it up for Sunday night animation block Adult Swim in 2001. “Home Movies” lasted two more seasons – but ceased production in 2004.
Season 2 features some of the series’ most memorable episodes. In “Identifying a Body,” Brendon accompanies his oft-hungover soccer coach-cum-mentor Coach McGuirk on a trip to the morgue; in “Hiatus,” he falls for his first crush, a choreographer for the band ScAb, which scores many of his films; and Brendon confronts his feelings about his father’s new girlfriend in “Therapy” and “The Wedding.” The films produced by Brendon, Melissa and Jason are some of the show’s best as well: “History” is based around a film starring Annie Oakley, Picasso and George Washington as an evil triumvirate bent on destroying the human race; the inaccuracies in the film reflect Brendon’s failing grade in the class. The superb “Star Boy and the Captain of Outer Space” is the backdrop for Brendon’s romance with his crush, Cynthia.
The show’s first season was animated in Squigglevision, the technique originally used in Comedy Central’s “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist”; seasons two and three use Flash animation. Guest stars include many comedians who voiced characters on “Dr. Katz.” One of the special features is a series of interviews with guest stars like comedians Andy Kindler, David Cross, Eugene Mirman (“You fucked up, Cartoon Network! You fucked up!”), Emo Phillips and Jonathan Katz. Cast members like Janine Ditullio (Paula, Brendon’s mother), writer Bill Braudis (who also voiced Brendon’s teacher, Mr. Lynch) and other sometime voices speak up as well. Also included are a segment by Small on how to play the “Home Movies” theme song, animatics of three episodes and commentaries and interviews with Small, Galsky and co-creator/co-writer Loren Bouchard.
It’s easy to see that the show’s creators and cast love “Home Movies,” and the DVD treatment – easy availability, interviews and special features for fans – is a fitting end to a project that should have lasted longer.
Show: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars
Features: 4 out of 5 stars