In 10 Words or Less
Reality TV gets much funnier and a lot less real
Likes: "Drawn Together," Comedy Central, surreal comedy
Dislikes: Spanky Ham, gross-out comedy
Hates: Predictable jokes
The Story So Far...
"Drawn Together," currently airing in its third and likely final season on Comedy Central, pulls together parodies of reality TV and animation, resulting in an extremely funny and utterly un-PC half-hour comedy meant only for adults. The short first season was released on DVD in October 2005, and DVDTalk has a review here.
After a first season spent parodying "house" reality shows, the second season of Drawn Together branched out slightly, touching on some of the genre's other variations, exploring the concept of being a reality star, and even throwing the whole conceit out the window at times to focus on more character-focused stories. The very Superman-influenced Captain Hero stories in "Terms of Endearment" and "Little Orphan Hero" have almost no reality TV material, a situation that is repeated frequently. Even when reality TV is a part of the show this time, it's a minor ingredient, limited mainly to the show's confessionals, where the characters talk to the camera.
Each character has a chance to take the lead this season, with Ling Ling, the show's Pokemon stand-in and background filler, actually getting prime time in two episodes, and Toot starring in "Alzheimer's That Ends Well," about her advanced age. But truthfully, this was Captain Hero's season to shine, getting the spotlight in seven of the episodes, including his ridiculous effort to bulk up to be good at "sports games" in "The Lemon-AIDS Walk." Hero explored some new ground, including an subplot about him possibly being gay, which plays itself out with some stunningly funny visual gags in "Xandir and Tim, Sitting in a Tree." Xandir's own homosexuality comes to the forefront this season, helped in many ways by Hero, with his coming out being the focus of "A Very Special 'Drawn Together' Afterschool Special." Hero, Toot and Princess Clara help Xandir roleplay how he will tell his parents he's gay, but their roleplaying gets out of hand and results in yet another filthy, filthy story.
If you thought the show was edgy the first time around, be prepared to experience a wealth of obscenity. South Park has never touched the filthy heights Drawn Together leaps in a single pantyless bound, while Family Guy's outrageousness is PC in comparison. Considering what it took to pull Don Imus or JV and Elvis from the radio air, these guys should be getting protested 24 hours a day. Whether it's a hat that helps you see the Asian way (via a simple face modification once the domain of grade schoolers) or Princess Clara's utter disdain for the non-white world, the series revels in stereotypes, almost to the point where it could be questioned if it's satire or a love letter. Obviously, considering the bias belong mainly to the stupid, its all joking, and it's frequently very funny.
It's also increasingly smart, as seen in the story of "Foxxy vs. The Board of Education," which mixes a story about gay rights and health insurance with institutional racism, while "Clum Babies" is a subtle joke about stem-cell research. No one's going to mistake the series for the work of Oscar Wilde, as there's still plenty of obvious gags, including an episode of fat jokes and a pointless finale that's just a clip show, but there's a wit beneath the crude surface. There's also an unusually sexual feel to the season, with a great deal of nudity. When you see what the animators do with Princess Clara, especially in "Afterschool Special," and Foxxy, it's not going to make many straight guys comfortable, as they learn how attractive a two-dimensional drawing can be. After watching Clara in the truck with Toot, I don't know how this show got on TV, even in the censored version not seen on this set.
Though there's a lot to like about the show, one of my biggest issues with it, and this goes for all similar shows made by my generation for my generation, is the predictable use of pop-culture references as punchlines. When Spanky is dropped though a trap door, my first thought was Rancor pit, and not surprisingly, I was right on. This happened repeatedly throughout the series, and though I like to think I'm funny, I'm not about to claim to be a comedic genius, so I can't be the only one experiencing this. I guess when you have a generation raised on TV and movies, with massive touchstones like Star Wars, pop-culture becomes just another part of our vocabulary like the or is.
The 15 second-season episodes of "Drawn Together" are split across two DVDs, with seven on the first disc and eight on the second. The discs have animated full-frame menus, which offer a play-all option, episode selections, and bonus features. There are no subtitles and no language options, but the episodes are closed captioned.
The discs are packaged in a pair of clear ThinPak cases, with two-sided covers that provide a funny synopsis for each episode. The cases are housed in a slipcase that has a lenticular animation cover piece that isn't one of the best I've seen. Free tip to someone out there...use this concept and put another show's art as one of the phases as a joke. It'd make me pay attention.
Like the first season DVDs, the packaging indicates that some of the music has been replaced for this DVD set, and once again I can't say the change was noticeable to me.
The look of "Drawn Together" is terrific, presenting eight very different animation styles with a high level of quality for a cable TV series. The bright colors come across cleanly, the level of detail is solid and there's nothing negative to report, as the show is mostly free of the black-line pixilation seen on many animated shows, and has no digital artifacts or dirt or damage. I wish most animated series looked this good.
The audio for "Drawn Together" is your standard TV fare, bringing Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that have good clarity in the dialogue, sound effects and musical numbers. There's nothing dynamic about the sound, but there's nothing wrong with it either.
The big extra here are the four episode audio commentaries featuring different mixes of cast and crew, with Cree Summer (Foxxy Love) being the only main cast member not heard from (due to scheduling issues.) One track even features Zoe Friedman, a Comedy Central executive, who is asked about the show's treatment by the channel, though her appearance is overshadowed by Adam Carolla's portrayal of an actor without an understanding of his own show. Considering the show's bad relationship with the network, and one very point-blank question about the show's scheduling, it could have made for a very interesting chat, but Friedman dances around the answer (with Carolla's help.) The rest are quite fun, as the groups are just hanging out and talking, at one point getting into a discussion of who one of the actresses would sleep with on the show if she was single.
There's an additional commentary, with creators Matt Silverstein and Dave Jesser, supervising producer Jordan Young, writers assistant Ian Dell and voice of Ling Ling, Abbey McBride, on the commentary for "Terms of Endearment." Yes, it's a commentary on a commentary. It's a cute idea, and works for the most part, but it's hard to listen to a commentary on something you listen to. It's probably why there's no commentary on CDs.
Eight behind-the-scenes interviews with the creators and voices are split between the two discs, giving you some background on the actors and characters. It's always been weird to me to see a cartoon voice coming out of a real person, so these have that "pull back the curtain" quality to them, though they have been available on the Comedy Central web site, so it's basically found material.
Five songs from the show are presented in Karaoke Mode and Sing-a-Long Mode, with means you get the songs with and without lyrics, both with on-screen sing-a-long captions. You'd have to be an odd duck to sing these songs, most of which are pretty short, but they are here anyway. Surprisingly, there are no Comedy Central Quickies previews, and instead there are a few DVD previews. It's the first time in a long time I've seen a Comedy Central DVD without them.
The Bottom Line
If you don't care about being offended, "Drawn Together" is a show that's great fun, thanks to the excellent parodies of cartoons and reality TV. The series has a very twisted sense of humor, and in the second season bumped up the violence, increased the sex and profanity, and even got a bit smarter in places, creating a show that's both very low-brow and somewhat intelligent. The audience for the show should cross a few demographics among adults, and adults only. The DVDs look and sound solid, and the few extras included are pretty good for fans of the show. Fans of the first season should enjoy this set even more, but if you've never seen the show, you can jump in easily without missing a beat. If you enjoy shows like "Family Guy" and "South Park," there's a good chance you will enjoy "Drawn Together."
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.