Cartoon Graveyard – Special Production Edition by Erik!

August 20, 2009

First of all, let me point something out: Arrested Development is good. With its Nabokovian quest to uproot the English language, tear it to pieces, and remake it in its own image; with a dozen or so of the best comic performances of the decade woven into a Kevlar-fine fabric of perfectly timed gags and countergags; with an I-can’t-believe-they-got-this-on-TV sense of devilry that invites the viewer to play along with every frame as with a summer-camp prank; yes, Arrested Development is freaking good.

Bear with me, Michael Bluth. This is going somewhere.

Bear with me, Michael Bluth. This is going somewhere.

But look at you. You “discovered” the show last year when you bought the DVD box set. You claim that it’s “the greatest show ever made” even though you’ve never seen a TV show older than The Fresh Prince. You talk it up like it’s buried freakin’ treasure even though every white person in America has known about it since their first Pabst Blue Ribbon. To you, annoying Arrested Development fan, I dedicate the hours I spent watching Sit Down, Shut Up, a show created by Arrested Development mastermind Mitch Hurwitz, a show so execrable it will shake your faith not only in Hurwitz but in television itself, and possibly in electric current.

A man nailing a school bus shut? How zany!

A man nailing a school bus shut? How zany!

Many of the problems in Sit Down, Shut Up exist in Arrested Development, whose in-jokes are a little too contrived, whose edginess is a little too ham-handed, whose characters are a little too flat to sympathize with when humor requires it. Sit Down, Shut Up features snide audience-winking, completely random attempts to offend, and characters with exactly one feature each. But then, it extends beyond the mistakes one could imagine coming from the creator of Arrested, displaying all the sense of narrative logic of a ficus plant in the background of Epic Movie, and trotting out sub-cliché comedy tropes the Epic Movie guys have too much dignity to touch. The premise could actually work: the show’s about teachers at a high school who care so little about their students that the students rarely show up on camera. It’s based on an apparently successful Australian sitcom, and it’s a pretty good way to subvert the typical high-school comedy formulas. The only thing is to start with some insight into what actually motivates high school teachers, which apparently these guys forgot to do.

See this character? He's bisexual. Get it? Well, <em>apparently</em> it's a joke.

See this character? He's bisexual. Get it? Well, apparently it's a joke.

Not only did Hurwitz start with a pretty good idea, but he gathered a voice cast many producers would kill for, including Will Arnett and Jason Bateman from Arrested, voice virtuoso Tom Kenny from SpongeBob SquarePants, and Will Forte from Saturday Night Live. The animation isn’t bad, either: it features cel-animated characters and props in front of photographed backgrounds, and it looks smooth enough for a sitcom’s purposes. In fact, there’s no obvious reason why this show would fail, let alone fail miserably. Maybe the people involved were so talented collectively that they thought they could just screw around and make something funny. Maybe they over-committed to an idea they later found out they couldn’t pull off. Maybe they tried their hardest and they just screwed up. Maybe we all need to remember Sit Down, Shut Up as an example of how even the brightest people with the best intentions sometimes just screw up.

I'm just sayin'.

I'm just sayin'.

In researching this article, I stumbled across the Sit Down, Shut Up fan wiki, a site obviously designed by FOX employees apparently ignorant of the concept of either “fan” or “wiki”. If (God forbid) you want to find out more about the show, that’s the place to go. FOX pulled Sit Down, Shut Up from broadcast after the fourth episode, but apparently they’re dumping 9 un-aired episodes on Sunday nights before the fall season, which is better than they’ve treated some much worthier shows. If you “surf the Net” to this “wiki”, you’ll find such exhilarating “fan-created” features as the Knob Haven High Teachers’ Survival Guide and the Sit Down, Shut Up quotes collection, in which you’ll find the full wit of the Internet on display.

Ho ho! I bet <em>these</em> guys aren't 14!

Ho ho! I bet these guys aren't 14!

Semi-honorable mention in Sit Down, Shut Up goes to Will Forte’s character, Stuart Proszakian. Stuart, the assistant principal, is completely oblivious to everything that goes on around him. His idiocy sometimes leads him to make a mouths-of-babes insight into the plot of the show. While neither of these ideas is particularly original, they mean that this character is based on two jokes, instead of the usual half a joke. Since you sometimes can’t tell which of these jokes is being set up, Stuart is technically unpredictable. After a couple of hours of watching Sit Down, Shut Up, you come to appreciate that. Dishonorable mention goes to Tom Kenny’s character, Happy the Janitor. Happy is a stereotypical Mideasterner who says horrible things, but everyone thinks he’s saying nice things! Seriously, if you work in television and you find yourself biting a shtick from American Dad, you should at least consider a long sabbatical.

honor dishonor

A diagram.

All right. I hope you enjoyed this review as little as I enjoyed writing it. Go fuck yourself.


Not Brett


One comment

  1. I love this show – even more than AD. Seriously!!!!!!

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