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TeeVee Awards '02: Best Animated Show

You've probably never heard of Home Movies, the unique Cartoon Network show that has captured this year's TeeVee Award for Best Animated Series. Produced by the same people who used to make the terrific Dr. Katz on Comedy Central, Home Movies started out on UPN, where it ran for all of 12 minutes before being recycled into Cartoon Network's Sunday night Adult Swim block

The show follows the adventures of eight-year old wannabe-Spielberg Brendon Small and his two best friends, Melissa and Jason. We know what you're thinking - oh wonderful, another sitcom featuring wise-beyond-their years kids. And truth be told, some of us here at TeeVee didn't jump on the Home Movies bandwagon right away for precisely that reason. But after giving the show a chance, one quickly learns just how funny precocious, silver-tongued third graders can be.

While most sitcoms on the air today prove that no writing means no laughs, writers Brendon Small and Bill Braudis have turned scripts into a starting point, not an ending. After going over an initial script, the voice actors are turned loose to ad-lib, creating a mixture of pre-written and improv comedy. The result is a series that is somehow both completely deadpan and incredibly lively. There's an energy and spontaneity to the dialogue that a writer's room full of story editors, producers, creative consultants and executive producers could never hope to duplicate.

While Bouchard and Small, who plays his namesake in the show, have created a little legion of the wittiest characters on the air, our favorite is the elementary school soccer coach, McGurk, voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. A world-weary, thirty-something cynic, McGurk is exactly the kind of teacher that causes parents to switch school districts. Yet his connection with the kids and especially Brendon is a beautifully twisted piece of comedy. Whether he's giving advice on women or bringing Brendon to the morgue while he identifies a dead body, McGurk's monologues are often the highlight of most episodes.

McGurk is typical of the adults on Home Movies, most of whom are thoroughly unbalanced while their children remain rocks of sanity and reason. That's not to say Brendon and pals spend the whole show lobbing set-up lines at their elders. Jason's lazy, nasal delivery contrasts nicely with Melissa's steady dependability and Brendon's nervous energy, particularly when the three are filming the latest in a long line of ultra-low- budget videos. It's scenes like these that really show off the actors' ad-lib skills and produces dialogue so sharp it could cut the script of weak-kneed sitcoms like Yes, Dear into tiny pieces.

And it's not like Home Movies was competing against dreck like Yes, Dear for the award. This is the little show that could, knocking off titans such as The Simpsons as well as its own network teammate, the consistently hilarious The Brak Show. If you haven't yet, find this series now and learn why, contrary to the well-established TeeVee Rules of Funny, sometimes it's best to let children be both seen and heard.

Additional contributions to this article by: Gregg Wrenn.


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