TV Eye

Sick and Twisted

The WB's <i>The Oblongs</i> follows a family of mutants living near a toxic chemical plant.
The WB's The Oblongs follows a family of mutants living near a toxic chemical plant.

I am going to hell. I'm going straight to hell. Maybe I'll earn some time in purgatory for trying, however briefly, to be indignant. You see, I was all set not to like The Oblongs, the new animated series which premiered on April Fool's Day on the WB, but, in spite of myself, I giggled. Okay, sometimes I outright guffawed.

The premise isn't particularly rib-tickling: "A poor family of mutants lives in the valley, in a town polluted by rich folks who live in the hills" (that description comes from TV Guide). The mutant family includes an amiable, pipe-smoking dad named Bob (voiced by Saturday Night Live's Will Ferrell). He's aptly named, since he has no arms or legs and has to, um, bob on his bum to get from place to place. Bob is married to Pickles (Jean Smart, of Designing Women), a chain-smoking, faded beauty and former rich girl from the hills, who gave up everything (including her hair) for Bob. Then, there are their children. Now this is where it gets weird. The oldest are teenage conjoined twin boys, named Biff and Skip (Randy and Jason Sklar). The middle child Milo, the show's central character, is voiced by Pamela Segall Adlon, who also voices Bobby on King of the Hill. Milo is a hyperactive boy drawn to look like a sun-deprived Charlie Brown. The youngest is a tot named Beth (Jeannie Elias), who would be perfectly sweet-looking were it not for that strange, penile growth sprouting from her head. Other than that, they're a perfectly normal television family. I haven't even told you about Milo's clubhouse friends. However, my favorite characters in the show are the Debbies, a gaggle of giggling, teenage blondes from the hills who all look, dress, and act alike. I admit, my glee at their appearance is often fueled by the malicious expectation that something bad will happen to them, which is almost always true.

In real life, in an East Austin neighborhood near you, living near toxic waste is no laughing matter. The battle to move the tank farms out of the Eastside, where several petroleum corporations stored oil and petrochemical waste, was a long and hard battle. To this day, corporations who stored their waste there insist that the tanks posed no danger to humans. Tell that to the residents whose children suffered irreversible brain damage from lead poisoning or suffered inexplicable headaches, nosebleeds, sore throats, and other maladies. And I don't imagine these same people think their experiences are a laughing matter. But, in a strangely subversive way, The Oblongs manages to take a serious subject -- toxic waste, child-rearing via prescription drugs, and animal testing, among others -- and in an absurd way, show the offensiveness of corporate greed at the expense of ordinary people.

The Oblongs is based on the work of underground San Francisco cartoonist Angus Oblong. To be honest, I'm shocked that The Oblongs saw the light of day on network television. The wit is razor-sharp, and its empathy with the so-called outcasts of the world is inspired. The Oblongs may take some getting used to, but given the chance, but it's a provocative kick.

The Oblongs airs Sundays at 8:30pm, on the WB.


Is the Children Watching?

Speaking of provocative, those bad boys of animation are at it again. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have come up with a tasteless and thoroughly irreverent sitcom called That's My Bush! I could leave it at that, except for the fact that it's devilishly funny. The creative duo insist that their new comedy is a parody of classic comedies, complete with all the trappings: canned laughter, the stock next-door neighbor, the smart-aleck maid. But with the tagline "A brilliant man needs a brilliant sitcom," is there any doubt who is the butt of the jokes in this hilarious comedy? (For those wondering if the Bush twins will show up, don't count on it. The girls were portrayed in early versions of the script as nymphets who were very, very close. The network was uncomfortable with the portrayal, and Parker and Stone were asked to remove them. The duo was happy to comply, as the first daughters turned out to be expendable as the series was further developed.)

Like The Oblongs, That's My Bush! relies on the absurd. Take last week's premiere episode, which had the president (Timothy Bottoms) trying to make peace between pro-life and pro-choice advocates by inviting representatives from both sides to a peace-making dinner. The pro-choice guest was a stereotypical, angry, butch woman, while the guest for the pro-lifers was an aborted fetus. The dinner is a debacle, topped off by the fetus riding off on the family dog. It sounds horrible. I almost fell off the couch laughing.

For the life of me, I can't imagine how Parker and Stone got away with it, but I'm sure glad they did.

That's My Bush! airs Wednesdays, 8:30pm, on Comedy Central.


Buffy Returns!

Finally, after weeks of reruns, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and Angel) fans can pick up where they left off from, gee, what was it? Two months ago? April 17 begins a series of new episodes, with some big storylines to continue. The most important, of course, being the death of Buffy's mother, Joyce Summers, played with aplomb by Kristine Sutherland. I was sad to see her go, but with little more to do than serve cookies and milk, the actress decided it was time for a change. Her death, though not totally unexpected given all the clues, was still a downer, but it provided one of the most amazing episodes of Buffy Joss Whedon has penned since the Emmy-nominated "Hush" episode.

I could go on and on about the episode, but space is fleeting. I do want to offer a big "Right on!" to Whedon for how he managed the long-anticipated, girl-on-girl kiss between Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson). It was clever of Whedon to include the kiss in a moment of compassion, instead of the obligatory, heavy-handed "very special Buffy" approach TV usually resorts to when trying to portray "sensitive" subjects.

In the upcoming Buffy episode (titled "The Funeral"), look for former beaus like Angel (David Boreanaz) and that annoying Riley Finn (Marc Blucas) to show up to offer their condolences. For those of you who've been wondering where Buffy will end up next season, I hope to chat about that next week.

As always, stay tuned.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

the oblongs, that's my bush, trey parker, matt stone, angus oblong

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