Love ‘em, hate ‘em, or never heard of ‘em, we’ve excavated our favorite new edgy comedies of 2011. These disturbing, maniacal, and sometimes downright offensive freshmen series never cease to poke, prod, or plunder audiences with their incessant crudeness, pop culture satire, political defilement and complete disregard for any degree of common sensibility or shame. But one thing is for certain: these incendiary diamonds (some admittedly still in the rough) never fail to get a rise out of us. And that’s why we love them.
This cheeky animated comedy series about an overly sophisticated-yet-sardonic and sometimes surprisingly naïve 7 year old boy raised by two eerily effeminate gay fathers hit TV waves in October to mediocre (and sometimes downright harsh) reviews. Cast aside as “nasty and brutish” by critics across the nation, it would be easy to cast this gem aside as a poor man’s Southpark or Family Guy (or more accurately, Southpark meets Family Guy meets 2 and a Half Men meets Archer), but we see the potential for extraordinary success hidden somewhere between Jonah Hill’s burgeoning “comedy legend” status, the show’s flagrant disregard for public scrutiny or hedging the status quo, not to mention the elite support of Peter Chernin (Chernin Entertainment) and David Goodman (executive producer of Family Guy). But most importantly, we love to encourage the creation of Adult Swim-flavored animated comedies that exploit the deepest, darkest, most perverted caverns of some of the industry’s most perverted, twisted, and unfathomably sadistic minds – all under the guise and title treatment of an all-American, fun-for-the-whole family, gift-wrapped package. Why? Because it keeps audiences on their toes, and it paves the way for more beloved, envelope-pushing shows, regardless of whether or not the title itself succeeds. We would not have Archer without Robot Chicken, we would not have Family Guy without The Simpsons – each animated incarnation gives birth to a new, more offensive, and more sinister generation of comedic brutality. Without the trail-blazers in tow, we’d be green-lighting the same dull, trite, repugnant sitcoms and formulaic animated obscenities that embody the studios’ tried and true, massively-appealing, “A18-49-safe” formula of lackluster white meat chicken. And that is something that Hulu won’t stand for. Thus, we’ve wagered our bets on Allen Gregory.
The #4 spot is tied between two revival shows: Mike Judge’s newly-refurbished Beavis & Butt-head, and Wilfred, the American installation of Tony Roger’s Australian smash hit series by the same name. America has been pining for the return of Beavis and Butt-head since it prematurely left American airwaves in 1997 – leaving millions of teens and young-adults disillusioned and without an unfit adolescent role-model with which to mimic such timeless catch-phrases as “Dill-hole”, “Fart-knocker”, and “I am cornholio!”. This breathtakingly dumbed-down music-television commentary show meets haphazard coming-of-age plotlines intermixed with anti-pop culture one-liners and a violent aversion towards any sense of morality, good judgment, or anything requiring more than 2 brain cells seems to hit the sweet spot every time.
On the other hand, Wilfred, adopted for FX by David Zuckerman, hits us in a refreshingly crude and surly way. This live-action comedy about a struggling young man who meets a canine (seen to the rest of the world as a dog, but to him as an acerbic, brutally honest, pot-smoking and adventurous Australian man in a cheap dog suit) hits all the right notes in perfect harmony as well.
Between these two mega-taining licentious masterpieces, one gets all the companionship one needs: a trash-talking, drug-addicted human-ine with a proclivity for motor-boating voluptuous, unassuming, and shamelessly naïve women, and two glue-sniffing, paint chip-eating music video addicts that start every sentence with “uh”, and end every sentence with “huh huh huh”. What more could one ask for?
Tied for #3, these two British smash-hits recently made their US debut by-way-of-Hulu, and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into – I think it’s safe to say that we were completely taken aback by the awesomeness that is British Satire. No two British shows have had the mass-audience appeal, cross-culture relevance, and razor-sharp wit of these two treasures since the likes of Monty Python. The internationally acclaimed Sci-Fi Dram-edy Misfits follows a group of 5 early 20’s delinquents in a fictional London borough who mysteriously acquire super powers after getting caught in a strange electrical storm whilst performing community service. The show has just the right mix of seedy tongue-in-cheek wit, edge-of-our-seat, advancing scene & plot progression, introspective character development, and female sexual objectification to satisfy even the most discerning TV critic’s taste. This conflation of several normally distinct genres conjoined with a foreign warped edginess all wrapped up in a tight-knight British bow leaves a profuse and lingering after-taste in one’s mouth. One that leaves us begging for more.
The introduction of The Only Way is Essex to my life can only be accurately described as the second coming of the Christ. Jersey Shore meets Monty Python meets The Hills, this British “reality” series demonstrates the sheer beauty and simplicity of how brazen mockery of the American reality-TV culture and it’s downright ostentatious, impudent, and garish nature can be not only brilliant with its mirror-image parodying, but endlessly entertaining in a frightfully conspicuous and eerily accurate fashion. Is it scripted? Unscripted? Structured w/out a script? Scripted without a structure? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s brilliant either way. The arrant ridiculousness of each character’s obnoxious quandary and one-dimensional progression throughout the series only serves to take aim at the not-so-subtle degradation of the American youth culture as it relates to reality TV. Eeeeesshhh, it should sting a little. But it doesn’t. Knowing that there are sophisticated cultures across the big blue ocean that share the same loathing and derision for fame-obsessed reality divas (who shall not be named… Ok screw it – divas such as the Kardashians, Lauren Conrad, Snookie etc.) gives me a warm sense of comfort and security in a cruel and senseless, spotlight-addicted world. I know I sleep more soundly at night knowing that no soul-less reality diva will go un-mocked…
For those of you who are as-of-yet unfamiliar with the golden egg that is Portlandia, I implore you to open your hearts and minds to what can only be categorized as nothing less than a life-changing, spirit-replenishing religious experience that can only be likened to coming face-to-face with pure divinity. My first religious awakening took place after being exposed to Season 1, Episode 1’s “I Dream of the 90’s”, after which, my life has never been the same. Watching Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein take ruthless aim at what can only be described as the ludicrous-yet-insanely mock-able counter culture realm of hipsterdom has restored my hope and faith in humanity once again. (and did I mention I hate hipsters? Because I do. Deeply. But not as much as they hate themselves). So do yourself a favor and prescribe yourself the only the balm that will quench that self-loving (or hipster-loathing) thirst for a long, well-deserved sabbatical from reality: a bridge from the real world to a flawless, exemplary, corduroy-loving magical place that we affectionately denominate as Portlandia. A place where young people go to retire, where working in a coffee shop is the end career goal, where you can trade your CD’s at record stores, where all the hot girls wear glasses, where cars don’t exist (only unicycles, trams, and skateboards), where the Bush administration never happened, where Cacao is sold on every street corner, and where you can put a bird on something and call it art.
After watching a heavily French-accented, hopelessly romantic, rotund grey-cat give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while declaring his undying love to the festering, fly-infested corpse of a long dead silvery-haired owner, I was smitten. After witnessing a fox pose as a human on a dating site, only to fall in love with a chicken posing as a human on a dating site, only to be attacked and almost murdered by said chicken (due to her stone-cold, bigoted hatred for the fox species), I was forever in love. This puppet-based situation comedy series, straight from overseas (BBC), revolves around the lives of five anthropomorphic animals who hang around the back of a pub in London. After debuting in the US by-way-of-Hulu only weeks ago, this polarizing and provocative puppet-satire is quickly becoming a fan favorite. The Muppets meets Avenue Q meets Family Guy, this show has nailed the perfect formula for the sometimes mercurial and critically-fickle American audience. As Adam Miller (the show’s head puppeteer) so eloquently put it, “We wanted to make something that had the pace of an American animation but with British sensibilities, that was adult, but not crude, that was based in the realities of the animal world, and that didn’t rely on the puppets to do the comedy.” Seeing as how the show is paced and structured very similarly to Family Guy (cutaways, comic songs, lack of an over-arching story or cohesive plotline between episodes, celebrity appearances), this show is bound to appeal directly to the adult animated comedy audience-base, with little room for failure. And we couldn’t be happier about it.