Comedy Central’s latest triumph is the thoroughly bizarre animated half-hour series Ugly Americans. The familiar routine of modern life becomes a little warped when vampires, zombies and werewolves attempt to join the melting pot of American society. The Ugly Americans Volume One DVD contains all seven episodes of the first season, and some interesting bonus material as well.
The show is set in the New York of some alternate reality, a place where creatures of all kinds freely roam the streets. Most seem to be waiting for word on their citizenship status. One of the things that cracks me up about this show is how utterly ordinary the spooks and scary monsters act. It is as if they really are cowed by the pencil-pushing government bureaucrats they have to deal with.
An idealistic young social worker named Mark Lilly takes an interest in the new arrivals, and becomes their chief advocate. He is also sleeping with his immediate supervisor, Miss Callie Maggotbone. Callie is somewhat unpredictable, to say the least. This may have something to do with the fact that Lucifer is her father.
All of the supernatural creatures and extra-terrestrials are trying desperately to fit in, but something always seems to happen. One of the funniest incidents was the discovery of “Mad Larry Disease,” a virus that turns people into Larry King. There is a moment in this episode that so perfectly mirrors some of the ridiculous things we hear on the news, that I just burst out laughing. The talking heads are explaining what to do to avoid Mad Larry Disease, and one of them pleads to the camera, “Under no circumstances should you ever share a needle with Larry King.”
Another memorable scene occurred when Mark was introduced to Callie’s father. This took place in a very fancy restaurant located in Hell, naturally. The polite dinner chat soon turned into a heated debate about the best ways to screw over other people. When Mark’s opinion was solicited, he piped up with “You could show them some compassion.” The entire restaurant went silent, as Callie’s Dad stared a hole right through Mark. The best part was when Satan uttered the immortal words, “Do you realize where you are, young man? You’re in Hell!”
By slightly tweaking situations that we accept as common, everyday occurrences, Ugly Americans shows just how twisted our vision of “normal” can be. Much like Stanley Kubrick’s classic film Dr. Strangelove, the funniest moments in the show are the ones that are played completely straight. Officials reacting “by the book” to situations that are positively ludicrous make me laugh every time.
In the extras department, I found the most interesting to be the five short “webisodes,“ which were made to promote the original half-hour shows. There are also a couple of stills collections, “Art Gallery,” and a pretty funny one called “Facebook Photos.” Chapters titled “Sneak Peak Art,” and “Sneak Peak Clips” round out the bonus elements. These segments show portions of unfinished episodes as they slowly come together in the lengthy production process.
There is also a booklet titled “A Field Guide To Ugly Americans.” It is a send-up of those mind-numbing government handbooks we have all come to detest.. This one is much more interesting, and features articles like “How To Assist A Zombie With Flesh Cravings,” and “How To Handle A Wizard Labor Dispute.”
In addition to the DVD debut of Ugly Americans, this week also marks the beginning of the show’s second season on Comedy Central. With all this action, October is shaping up to be a great month — both for scary monsters, and for super creeps.