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April 29, 2008

Sketch show marks cultural decline, Great Job!

Watching Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, a sketch-based comedy on Adult Swim, I realized that Mike Judge was really onto something when he wrote the story for his movie Idiocracy. In the film, Americans 500 years from now are so intellectually impoverished that people considered to be of average intelligence today are regarded as super-geniuses. The most popular TV show in this future world is called Ow, My Balls!!!, in which the only thing that happens to the main character is a series of painful encounters of random objects with his testicles. Awesome Show is clearly a foretaste of this new, dumb world order.

The episodes essentially consist of crude green-screen editing and people with hairy faces and large, misshapen eyes popping up in unexpected places. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, who do impersonations but mostly play themselves, also perform a fair number of cheesy songs and infomercials for ridiculous products—diarrhea-inducing cream, gravy robbers, slop, child clowns. Like too many shows today, Awesome Show concentrates most on being unsettling, wacky, and fast-paced. Awesome Show, while not completely terrible, exemplifies “instant gratification” and its negative consequences for the health of our society.

The show’s sketch structure is appropriate for Adult Swim, and the lack of any real direction or reason for making us watch Tim and Eric screw around is as fine a premise for a show as most comedies have nowadays. But flashes of meatballs with the words “Balls” printed across the screen, followed by a skit and another pair of meatballs now covered in dark, creamy sauce with the words “Bloody Balls,” really made me wonder: How was this show even pitched?

Bleeding heads, flashes of neon colors, and distorted faces making strange sounds are apparently what we have come to desire from Adult Swim, although the network still has other, worthier programming. It is true that this show contains many of the antics we might play out with our friends, but in the end it makes for sub-par programming because there is too little thought behind it.

I will admit that there is some original thought in Awesome Show. The first episode sees Tim clearly pointing out the fact that his dad, or any sane father for that matter, would not be proud of his son for making such a show. The two boys have stupid-looking but funny facial expressions and mannerisms from time to time. But the cameos are really what save the show; Michael Cera, John C. Reilly, and Will Forte, among others, have sketches of their own. Cera plays his usual awkward self, Reilly’s Steve Brule is the quintessential senseless news broadcaster, and Forte is just a little bit creepy.

Tim and Eric have created a masterpiece for the restless, easily amused, bright color–loving, rational thought–loathing young American. I really do not think people from other countries would enjoy this. And idiocracy might be coming sooner than anyone thought.