Canned TV Show #2: Clone High
Welcome back to Canned, where we dig up canceled shows from the TV vault and breathe sweet life into them for a brief, fleeting moment. Today’s entry is on the ill-fated animated comedy Clone High, a joint venture with MTV and Canada’s Teletoon network. I’ll be deciding if this cult favorite deserves its status, or whether it should be buried forever.
Also, I’ll be incorporating video into the post! Because we all love that, right? Who likes reading the unnecessarily formal prose of a college student when you can just watch the damn clips he’s talking about? Well, today’s your lucky day, my lazy friends.
Now that my insulting of my already tiny audience is done, let’s move on to the show. Clone High takes the relatively clever conceit of having clones of famous historical figures, now grown to teenage years and in a special high school just for them, and uses it to spoof teen sitcoms and dramas as a whole. And I’ll tell you, dear reader, it is often with hilarious results.
for a little more backstory, let’s turn to indie group The Abandoned Pools to provide us with some info.
As the theme song generously informs us, the clones were created for some sort of government plan, which is never fully revealed by the series’ end. However, the school’s principal, Cinnamon J. Scudworth (voiced by co-creator Phil Lord) has his own plans for the clones, namely to hold them captive in a clone themed amusement park. Who are the clones, you might ask? There’s a large population of clones that populate the school and show up here and there, but the main ones are tall, awkward Abe Lincoln (voiced by Will Forte), who has the hots for sexy Cleo(patra, voiced by Christa Miller), who is in an on-again, off-again relationship with idiotic womanizer JFK (Voiced by other co-creator Chris Miller). Also in the mix is Abe’s best friend, party-crazed Gandhi (Michael McDonald, not the singer one, the
Mad TV one), and his other gal pal Joan (of Ark, voiced by Nicole Sullivan), who harbors secret feelings for Abe, feelings that he’s too dense to notice. Other clones show up from time to time, often for the use of random gags. In fact, one of the funniest things about Clone High is that the fact that the characters are clones rarely comes into play. instead, the show plays like a straight spoof of other teen shows conventions, and the characters could be just about anybody and it would still be as funny.
The show almost always hits its mark in terms of parody, from the school elections to the presence of drugs to the killing of a character brought in solely for that purpose (which Will Forte denies in his hilarious pre-episode voiceover). Probably one of my favorites is the aforementioned school election, in which both presidential clones run against each other to win Cleo’s heart. Mr. Scudworth, meanwhile, needs 2 million dollars for his clone theme park, so he decides to bring in a corporate sponsor for the election, the makers of a paste that’s supposed to give you energy, but really is nothing more than pancake batter and blue paint. Their entrance at the election is some of the most spot-on parody of “extreme marketing” I’ve ever seen (it’s at about the seven minute mark)
Each episode features a hearty amount of funny moments, and all the characters are endearing. I have to admit, I’m a big fan of the exploits of Scudworth and his sidekick, Mr. Butlertron. Scudworth is such an over the top villain and Mr. B, as he’s called, is a great comic foil. Later in the series, the writers use scudworth to spoof other genres, such as old-timey chasing cartoons like the Wile-E Coyote stuff, with an obnoxious skunk that shouts “try and catch me, bitch!” In fact, this calls for another of those fancy video clips:
Since there are so few episodes and each one is so enjoyable, I’d say this is one show that should be watched start to finish. However, the show gets increasingly dark and downright gory as it goes along, and some of the jokes don’t work quite as well. In the end though, the jokes that hit outweigh the ones that fall flat, and you’re guaranteed to laugh at least once every few minutes or so, if only at the just plain ridiculousness of it all. Some other highlights include, in my opinion, a rock opera in which the kids get addicted to raisins from a mysterious “Pusher” (voiced by Jack Black), and decide to liberate themselves. The homages to Tommy are priceless.
In the end, it wasn’t entirely poor ratings that killed Clone High. In combination with that, its demise came from a force larger and more powerful: the people of India. Don’t take my word for it, though; here’s one last clip of the creators, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, explaining the show’s downfall:
Reportedly, people in India saw an ad in Maxim magazine depicting Gandhi’s clone in a negative light, and were none too pleased about it. As Lord and Miller explain, people fasted in protest, and such bad publicity for the network had a hand in bringing the show down. This explanation leaves mixed feelings in me. A part of me wants to just tell the Indian people to lighten the hell up, but another part of me understands where they’re coming from. Gandhi is nothing less than a martyr to them, a hero to millions whose tireless efforts of protest through non-violence gained independence for the nation, so to see his image dancing around naked or being diagnosed with A.D.D. had to be pretty upsetting. I’m sure in this country, certain people would be upset to see, say, Martin Luther King in that role (though it should be noted, he does show up, but in an appearance that seems calculated not to step on any toes). In fact, if they were moved to fasting in protest over just an image of Gandhi’s clone, they’d probably shit their pants with rage if they saw the actual show. However, what the Indian people have to remember is that the Gandhi on the show is not the real Gandhi, but instead is a clone of the real one, a clone who grew up in the American public school system in the 20th century, and may have turned out the way he is on the show. I doubt the creators of the show planned to insult the memory of one of the greatest people the world has ever known. It just shows that where you grow up has a profound impact on the person you turn out to be.
So, should it be back on the air? Most definitely. The series ends on a humdinger of a cliffhanger, with a brilliant two-parter episode. I’d watch these guys for as long as they can keep up the funniness of the first season, and the characters are lovable, for as pathetic as they all are. Maybe Lord and Miller can use some of their good will from their first film foray, this years’ winning kids’ book adaptation Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which features similar humor, to get a Clone High movie made to tie up the loose ends of the finale. A clone can dream…
If you want to check it out for yourself, most of the series can be viewed on youtube or veoh with decent quality. I’d highly recommend it.
Come back next time, when I’ll be reviewing FOX’s panned sitcom The War at Home! Unfairly panned? We’ll see.