TRACY: ‘Home Movies’ and its sublime weirdness

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‘‘So in conclusion,”

“That’s how you start your review?”

“Yeah, because I have the final say. It’s catchy, I know.” – Melissa and Brendon talking about the review Brendon just wrote.

That’s an awful way to begin anything, correct? A school paper, blog post or newspaper article, “in conclusion” signifies the end of something, that an argument or idea was presented and you’re wrapping up your final thoughts on the matter.

It didn’t seem like it at the time, but that’s how the final season of the horribly underrated Adult Swim series “Home Movies” began. After rescuing “Home Movies” from United Paramount Network’s dumpster of failed ideas, show creators Brendon Small and Loren Bouchard came together again to finish up production on the first season of the series before moving over to a flash animation format in the rest of the series.

“Home Movies” followed Brendon Small, Jason Penopolis (H. Jon Benjamin) and Melissa Robbins (Melissa Bardin Galsky) creating movies in Brendon’s basement. The kids try to do a variety of movies like crime dramas, horror and legal thrillers, often trying to recruit their peers to get involved. It’s hilarious. These kids put so much effort and love into their work, you can’t help but smile at it all. Brendon and Melissa also play soccer under Coach McGuirk, an Irish-American alcoholic that does the bare minimum to keep his job.

One of the best elements of the show is its use of improvisation. Throughout the first season, “Home Movies” used Squigglevision computer animation, in which characters’ entire designs shake and wiggle around, because many characters’ lines of dialogue were made up on the spot in the recording booth and there wasn’t a set script to follow. It was a cheap method to get the show animated while keeping its core cast bouncing off each other for jokes.

As the series progressed, the animation upgraded to flash and became more serialized with Brendon’s mom losing her job as a community college teacher and Mr. Lynch (Ron Lynch) becoming the new principal of the school. There are still bits and pieces of improv there, but it no longer needs to make up the show as it moves long.

It’s been 12 years since “Home Movies” went off the airwaves. Other than a cult following, it’s been largely forgotten, which is a shame. Adult Swim and Hulu have all the episodes to be streamed on their website. With 52 episodes over the course of four seasons, it makes for a very quick binge to start off the summer.

We also got some awesome things that came afterward. “Bob’s Burgers,” which was also created by Bouchard and celebrated its 100th episode a couple months ago, is one FOX’s most successful animated series as of late. Small went on to create “Metalocalypse” for Adult Swim and is fighting to get it back on the air for one final season or wrap-up movie for the network. Benjamin is one of the biggest voice actors in the industry, playing the lead character on “Bob’s Burgers” and FX’s “Archer” as well as making occasional appearances in “Family Guy” and “The Venture Bros.”

The final moments of the “Home Movies” episode “Focus Grill” feature a sad realization that not everything lasts forever. What you like today may annoy you tomorrow. People come and go throughout life, so we try to make the most of it while we can. Seeing the trio’s reactions to their old movies hits home in a variety of ways. I’ve been there, and I’ve lived it.

Before coming on board as an arts and entertainment reporter, I looked back through my old articles from high school and realized that many of them didn’t turn out as well as I thought. There’s probably going to be a day in the future where I’ll look back on this with regret.

“What’s wrong with us?” Melissa asks. “I don’t know,” says Brendon. “We’re weirdos,” says Jason. But that’s the thing about “Home Movies;” it made it cool to be weird. It opened a door of imagination to allow itself and the characters to show that you can love the movies and have film directors be your personal heroes. It’s a bittersweet scene, and the music accompanied by Small himself is truly fantastic.

In an era when shows are returning back from the dead, there’s some comfort in having “Home Movies” shut off its camera the way that it did. It got an ending – the announcement that “Home Movies” was canceled came at a time when the audience was kept in the dark. Until the final episode aired, the audience didn’t know that this brilliant series was ending because Small and Bouchard wanted to keep it a surprise, kind of like the surprise they got when Adult Swim told them that after this production cycle ends, “Home Movies” would be over, too.

“Focus Grill” was the icing on the cake of a pretty incredible batch of episodes. These characters are going to be OK, there’s no reason for these people to continue making movies. If a revival happens, I’ll definitely be on board to watch more, but for now, I was happy to get what we got.

In conclusion, I’m a movie and TV-loving weirdo, and there’s not a damn thing I’m going to do to change that. “Home Movies” meant a lot to me in high school as I was slowly figuring out a path for what to do in the future. It was a series that helped cement Adult Swim into its foundation and showed that half hour programming can work on its network. Now we’ve got more half hour original series like “Rick and Morty” and “Venture Bros.,” both of which are excellent. I got to spend eight months getting talk about pop culture with all of you, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. Now who wants tapas?

 

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