Thursday, 17 November 2011

Drawn Together – season 3 / movie

Since I wrote my impressions of the first two seasons of Drawn Together, there has been a third, news of cancellation and then a direct-to-DVD movie. And there, barring a revival, ends the Drawn Together story, to the regret of few. There were great ideas in Drawn Together and some funny jokes, but mostly it became tired and strained and extremely repetitive.

Season 3 was more of the same, 14 new episodes in much the same mould as the previous series – we had episodes in which Ling-Ling had to take part in cockfighting in Mexico, in which Foxxxy is finally reunited with her father and in which Wooldor gets a TV show that turns children gay. So yes, more of the same – overdone jokes about minorities, inconsequential character-based plotlines and lots of gross-out humour. About the only bit of variety went back to what made the show interesting in the first place – its basis in animation tropes – and gave us ‘Drawn Together Babies’, which of course involved killing a babysitter and hiding the body and lots of tiny children in sexual situations. It would seem, judging by the last episode, that the cancellation of the series came as a surprise, but frankly, it was for the best – Drawn Together ran out of ideas early in season two. It was still worth watching because there were occasional funny moments and highly quotable lines, but generally the stories didn’t provide many laughs. Only incidental moments that were funny, from discovering what Captain Hero’s nemesis’ modus operandi really is, or Totoro showing up to play piano for Ling-Ling. But the complaint I had about the first seasons stands – it’s not enough to just portray a bunch of characters with the stereotypes of minorities and/or the mentally ill. You have to make the audience empathise with them, and you have to have some decent jokes beyond hoping that outrage at political incorrectness makes people laugh.

At the end of it all, the most interesting thing to say about Drawn Together is that according to Imaishi Hiroyuki, of Gurren Lagann fame, without the Gainax staff watching Drawn Together while in the US and seeing how far Rough Draft could push what could be shown on TV, they would never have been inspired to create Panty & Stocking.

The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie! brought with it a new visual style thanks to being animated in flash by Six Point Harness studio (responsible for crap like the The Ricky Gervais Show) and a storyline based entirely on bitterness about being cancelled. The movie makes big mistakes – not least of which is pretending none of their political incorrectness was meant to be smart South Park-style satire and setting up an opposition between themselves and that show (which took their time slot) suggesting Parker and Stone just tack on meaningless, trite political messages and being funny for the sake of being funny is somehow purer and superior. Though there’s something to be said for the Drawn Together writers being able to recognise their flaws, including those of this film (one gag points out they were lucky to get three seasons and should be grateful), and some of the obvious jokes about Israel, territory and violence (delivered by fan Seth MacFarlane), as well as a series of crude superhero cameos, actually managed to be funny, but trying to get a feature-length plot from shallow, vague ideas about not deserving cancellation just ends up dull. Red Dwarf couldn’t even make it work, so…

Plus using flash doesn’t work for animated pastiche. Despite spirited attempts to imitate cut-out animation and Disney smoothness, from Waltz with Bashir through My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Wakfu to Happy Tree Friends, flash looks like flash. And this never escaped the limitations of the media – a glaring flaw when attempting pastiches.

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