Friday, 26 September 2014

Review - Drawn Together (2004-2007, 2010)

Drawn Together was an animated adult satirical sitcom which aired on Comedy Central between 2004 and 2007, with a feature length direct to DVD movie following in 2010.

The premise of the show was simple, 8 cartoon characters of various types were taking part in a reality TV show for some unspecified purpose, and each episode showed the wacky goings off behind closed doors (or, as the opening credits described it "1 House, 8 Cartoon Characters, 1,000,000 Cameras!").

 Each of the characters involved was a specific archetype, both of the genre of animation, and of the "reality TV star".

Main Characters:-

Captain Hero - A Caricature of "American style" caped superheros, particularly Superman.
Captain Hero, or "Leslie" to his friends is the typical all American straight laced macho type, except that in reality he is a misogynistic, chauvinist, homophobic, hypocritical and sometimes violent bigot. Numerous times during the series he is seen to indulge in many and varied sexual perversions, as well as being something of a closeted homosexual. He is also very childish and prone to temper tantrums and periods of sulking when he doesn't get his own way, he also seems to be completely oblivious the the world around him on occasions, usually whenever he uses (or abuses) any of his super powers. Oddly, Captain Hero is one of the best developed characters in the series, receiving a full and coherent back story as well as proper character development. As a reality TV star, he falls cleanly into the "Macho frat boy" archetype.

Wooldoor Sockbat - A caricature of "wacky" cartoon characters, mostly modelled on Spongebob Squarepants (described in one episode as an "ill conceived Spongebob parody") but also incorporating elements of Looney Toons and Tex Avery type characters (Wooldoor can ignore all natural laws at will etc). Wooldoor is an extremely weird and somewhat childish character who usually ends up being the butt of many jokes, or is generally bullied due to his naivety. However Wooldoor also has the ability to be extremely intelligent on occasion, showing he has abilities as a psychiatrist, a surgeon, a doctor and a scientist (as well as an unwilling lab experiment from time to time). As a reality TV star, he is the "Weird guy".

Princess Clara - An obvious caricature of fairy tale princesses, notably "Disney" princess types.
Outwardly kind and charming, Clara is actually a fundamentalist christian, an anti-semite, a homophobe, a racist and an idiot. Although these traits stem from her sheltered upbringing, it is also implied that she has an incestuous relationship with her father the King. Most of the shows humour from Clara comes from her being blatantly offensive without realising it, but also from how hypocritical she is, usually because she realises she can benefit herself in some way by doing something she condemns others for. As a reality TV star, she fits into the "Sheltered rich girl" archetype.

Foxxy Love - A caricature of "blaxsploitation" type characters, Foxxy is a "mystery solving musician" who was formerly a member of the band "Foxxy 5", who had 1 hit single in the mid 1980s (all other members of the band are also blaxsploitation characters). Foxxy, being black, is frequently on the receiving end of Claras racist outbursts, however Foxxy is also hypersensitive towards anything which could remotely be considered racist (for example she deliberately mishears the word "knickers" as "niggers" during a spelling bee and uses it as an excuse to assault the judges). Other than that, Foxxy typically behaves in a stereotypical "ghetto" manner, speaking in Ebonics and/or jive talk, being sexually promiscuous, stealing anything she can get her hands on etc, however out of all the housemates, Foxxy ends up usually being the most level headed (or as Wooldoor describes her "the least retarded"). As a reality TV star, she is the "Sassy Black Girl".

Xandir - Xandir (full name - Xandir P. Whifflebottom) is a caricature of one dimensional video game characters, most notably "Link" from the "Zelda" series of games. Extremely effete, Xandir says he is "on a never ending quest to save his girlfriend", however in the 3rd episode of series 1, he admits that he is gay and breaks up with her. Xandir is the most placid of the housemates however he does have a tendency to freak out over the most trivial of things. As a reality TV star, Xandir is the "Token gay guy", although in one episode he does admit that he finds Toot attractive (she then forces him to have sex with her numerous times)

Ling-Ling - Ling-Ling is a caricature of Japanese anime characters, mainly pokemon/digimon type creatures, but is also a stereotype of Asians in general. As a "Japanese trading card battle monster" (that bears a strong resemblance to Pikachu) , all Ling-Ling seems to care about is battling other creatures, however when the opportunity to battle does not present itself, he goes about other tasks as though he was in an anime style battle, with accompanying theme tunes and stock backgrounds etc. Ling-Ling, with the exception of one episode, spends the entire series speaking a faux Japanese-esque language, and fulfils other Asian stereotypes such as being unable to drive safely, being good at standardised tests and being a disappointment to his father. As a realty TV star, he is the "Clueless foreigner" who struggles with culture shock.

Toot Braunstein - Toot is a caricature of 1920s era black and white cartoon characters such as Betty Boop. She appears to be a chubby flapper girl in her early 20s, however when seen in close up she is actually hairy, spotty and extremely unattractive to most people. Her "cute" personality masks her true personality, which is that of an extremely unpleasant, attention seeking, foul mouthed, alcoholic, gluttonous antagonist. Toot spends most of her time causing trouble, over eating, drinking and indulging in self harm if things don't go her way. She is also extremely sexually frustrated, being as no one will willingly have intercourse with her, however when they do the experience is usually terrifying for them. As a reality TV star, she is the "attention seeking trouble causer".

Spanky Ham - A caricature of Flash animation characters, Spanky Ham is a poorly drawn anthropomorphic pig who has a foul mouth and an obsession with toilet humour and sex. He has a somewhat abrasive and cynical personality, however he demonstrates numerous times that he has a head for money making making schemes of various legalities. As a reality TV star, he is the "loud mouthed slob".

Although the series uses set characters in an established setting, almost none of the episodes follow any kind of coherent story arc, characters are killed off or delivered a life changing plot line one week, for it all to be completely forgotten the following week. Many episodes also include various non-sequitr scenes as well, usually, but not always, featuring a cameo appearance by a "real" cartoon character (although most of these characters are usually not named or obscured in some way to avoid copyright infringement).
The show also features several running gags, such as the shows poor reviews, Foxxys dislike of the foster care system (its said that she has had several of her own children placed in foster care), Toot being mistaken for a cow/whale/bear etc because of her weight and appearance and so on.

Speaking of the shows reviews, many reviews slated the show for its overuse of stereotypes, obsession with crude humour and bodily functions and for the amount of swearing, nudity and depictions of sex acts (on a strange note, during one episode, Wooldoor explains to the viewer that due to FCC regulations, the viewers may not see Princess Claras vagina, but throughout the show it is permitted for the viewers to see nearly all of the main male characters penises, both flaccid and erect, as well as being able to show the male members masturbating and ejaculating). One review branded the show as being "unfit for children"...which proves that they probably didn't get the fact that the show was intended as an adult satire program simply because it was a cartoon.

Much as I have seen people slate the show for its racist, misogynistic, anti-religious and other general offensive content, what they don't tend to realise is that Drawn together is a wonderfully crafted piece of social satire, having a pop at many different issues per episode and doing them in an extremely entertaining way.
Unfortunately though, the series was cancelled after its 3rd season began airing, which seemed to come unexpectedly to the production team as they admitted via an on screen caption during the final episode of series 3 that this was "the most crappy series finale ever" and that "several lines of dialogue had already been written and recorded and it was too late to change them".
The series ended with all 8 main characters receiving their contract termination notices and walking as a group through a door marked "Unemployment", bringing the series to an end.

In 2010 however, a 65 minute movie, imaginatively titled "The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!" was released to finish off the series proper with one last attempt by the characters to get the show back on the air.

I really liked this series because the quick witted and deep cutting dark humour is brilliant, but it is also the reason why the show wasn't too popular with the mainstream people, simply because it was "different".

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