I thought I was done with this. I thought I was through the worst of the 2012 midseason. I was under the impression that there were no more of these flat, unfunny, total-waste-of-time pilots that go on and on and on until I’m questioning the very foundations of my sanity. Please. Someone. Anyone. Anyone at all. Stop the madness. Just make it stop.
So with that out of the way, let’s dive into Unsupervised! It’s a brand new raunchy cartoon comedy premiering only on FX.
I’m sure you’ll love it.
So what is Unsupervised? It’s the heartwarming story of two young boys, free to do as they please with no parental supervision whatsoever (hence the name). Joel (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s David Hornsby) has parents who are too old and decrepit to take care of him. Gary (Justing Long) is raised by a single stepmom who skips out of town practically every weekend. Now, you’d think that after establishing that she’s only gone on the weekends, there’d be some discrepancy between the schoolday scenes and the weekend scenes- maybe the boys have to be (slightly) more subdued during the week but then they break loose on Friday, or maybe they have to spend all their time at Joel’s house during the school week. Or maybe we’d actually, you know, see the mother at some point if she’s still living in this house.
But no! Unsupervised is far too busy for things like logic or coherency. Far too busy indeed.
Now, considering I’ve done this far too many times already (watch a new show, feel sour hatred wash through the depths of my very soul, write a bad review of said show), I’m gonna try something new. I’m going to take two shows that do what Unsupervised is trying to do, but do it better, and talk about that. This way I can still hate on Unsupervised while putting a positive spin on things.
Like the idea? Of course you do! Let’s begin.
1. Freaks and Geeks.
The idea of teenagers struggling between the desire to grow up and the loss of their childhood is not anything new. Every single person in history (more or less) has gone through that. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to get your audience to relate to these characters.
Unsupervised fails at this on every level. Every character on the show is some kind of stereotype and there’s nothing unique about a single character on the show. Unpopular girl. Crazy kid. Fat kid. Thuggy, violent jock. Outdoorsy Australian who loves kangaroos. The closest thing to a standout character is Joel, who likes to dance. He dreams about dancing, and he dances two or three times throughout the show. And that is the closest Unsupervised comes to having someone we could actually care about.
Freaks and Geeks, on the other hand, is the perfect example of TV kids that actually seem like real kids. There are cliques, because cliques ARE real things, but there’s not a single character that’s not fully fleshed out in a real, human way. Take Harris. Harris is long-haired outsider-y kid with glasses and acne and looks just like a stereotypical nerd. But the more we see of him, we realize that he actually has a girlfriend, is fairly sociable in his own, geeky circle, and is quite happy with his life. He’s a nerd, yes, but he’s also an actual person with positive and negative aspects to his life. And this is just one minor character. There’s no one on Unsupervised who even comes to feeling like a real person, and it makes everything feel cheap and forced.
2. King of the Hill
Like King of the Hill, everyone on Unsupervised is ugly or unattractive in some way. A lot of the animation on Unsupervised stress the small unpleasant details in everyone’s body. People have bad teeth, pear-shaped bodies, flab, unsightly hair, and so forth. Even the Australian guy (does he have a name? I can’t remember but also I don’t care) has a little bit of a muffin-top whenever he’s shirtless. All of this is done for two reasons- to make the characters seem more like real-world characters, and also to be funny. But of course, having your characters look like real characters doesn’t help if they’re all flat and stereotypical, but at least it’s funny, right?
Not… really. You can’t just have people be ugly. That itself isn’t actually a joke. You have to use that ugliness to make a joke, through editing or dialogue or something.
Take King of the Hill. Everyone on that show has the same imperfections. Boomhauer, a ladies man, has a tiny, weird little face. Women portrayed as beautiful still have bags under their eyes and show signs of aging. Hank always has a few inches of stomach hanging over his jeans. But the animation (especially in the first season) is ugly enough and takes enough time to highlight these flaws (with plenty of unending, silent looks from ugly, odd-looking people). That’s where the funny comes from.
I will say that I laughed once during Unsupervised. When the boring, stereotypical Hispanic dad next door awkwardly recommends having sex with a book as a cool alternative to partying, I actually chuckled out loud. Don’t worry, it makes more sense in context.
And that about does it. Oh, and as a final note, I just want to say that Romany Malco (playing the role of Darius) is a really talented, funny actor and it’s a shame to see him in crap like this. And crap like Gulliver’s travels. And The Love Guru.
Well, I’ll see you all next time. Thanks for reading!