Internet cartoons toe the line
There’s more to being undead than eating the living — at least if you’re a student at Zombie College, where making it with a girl means stripping off her skull and munching some luscious gray matter. Felicity it ain’t, but almost all of the animated shows at Icebox.com (www.icebox.com) revel in being ruder, and smarter, than prime time. With the already popular Zombie and Hard Drinkin’ Lincoln, and four new series debuting this month — including Mr. Wong, Superhero Roommate, and Heaven — L.A.-based Icebox represents online liberation for folks from such shows as South Park and The Simpsons who are contributing ideas to the site and seeing them matched up with superb animation and rocking theme songs.
Could shorts like these someday cross back over to TV? In fact, networks already see the Web as a way to build an audience for new shows. On June 15, Warner Bros. Online launched The Oblongs (www.oblongs.com), original online sketches that will presage the debut of an animated TV comedy of the same name in 2001. Based on the books by Icebox.com contributor Angus Oblong, the series features a family of disfigured misfits who live downstream from a toxic dump. The mutations cause amusingly disgusting problems — conjoined twins Biff and Chip argue over who washes the middle butt cheek, Beth’s phallic head appendage has to be covered by a condom in the pool — but while these 30-second glimpses serve to hype the TV show, they also give you the feeling that, like one-eyed Milo Oblong, you didn’t get to see enough.
Of the new Icebox.com webisodes, Mr. Wong is the most seductive. It pairs a disgruntled Chinese butler with a prissy socialite in an overtly racist yet intellectually hilarious relationship. Still heartbroken over the death of former boss Bing Crosby, Wong ruefully agrees to accompany his martini-swilling employer to Memphis, where he desecrates the grave of Crosby’s nemesis, Elvis Presley. When he returns from jail, we discover why the servant and the spinster are perfect for each other — and for the Web, since a network probably wouldn’t gamble on such a potentially controversial comedy.
Another odd-couple scenario drives Superhero Roommate, in which Russell (NewsRadio’s Dave Foley) has to share an apartment with a pretentious slacker who also happens to be Omega Force, defender of the universe (Mr. Show writer-actor Brian Posehn) — the basic joke being that even superheroes have trouble sharing a refrigerator. With well-developed characters and the potential for plenty of interesting plotlines, it’s a pity Superhero has yet to enjoy a tight string of gags.
With the possible exception of the hellish Cheers spoof Heaven, in which the barflies include a hack-comedy Edgar Allan Poe, all of the new shows are broadcast-worthy. And if they improve the way Zombie has, the only disadvantage to watching them online will be that you’ll have to work the mouse while balancing your martini. Zombie: A Oblongs: B Mr. Wong: A Superhero: B- Heaven: C