The theatre-nerd part of me loved It’s the Hard Knock Life, which was a great no-frills documentary about a choreographer determined to recreate the iconic musical number, the set designer who wants to put the smallest one in a drawer, and a group of girls who are that stage-kid mixture of 8 and 48, including the one who promises that if acting doesn’t work out, she’ll always have academics. There’s not a lot of edge to it – this documentary thinks the kids are professionals and everyone is doing their best and that’s a cool thing and we’re all done – but it’s a nice, no-nonsense glimpse backstage, and the focus is exactly the right scope for its length.
My ongoing summer assignment is Graceland, a USA show that follows the lives of undercover cops in a fancy beach house as they work through complicated cases and try desperately to maintain character continuity. It’s almost more fascinating for what it’s not as for what it is (some of the construction is clearly veteran TV work, but when we say ‘textbook example,’ imagine all the narrative excitement of an actual textbook, which is really weird for a show that is literally about surfer cops going undercover). I cut the first half-dozen episodes some slack, so we’ll see if this theory pans out now that they’re hitting a stride. I’ll keep you posted if Charlie finally has enough of everyone being a jerk to her and changes the locks on the house or something.
And this weekend, I tackled Fox’s new Animation Domination late-night cartoon block, featuring two tentpole 15-minute shows, Axe Cop and High School USA!
Of the two, Axe Cop (based on the hugely popular webcomic) is both more awkward and more delightful by turns, as the quasi-Archer dialogue of a writers’ room full of adults gives way to the whims of a seven-year-old who demands that they fly via dinosaur to the Zombie Island in Space to fight Dr. Doodoo, smartest poop in the world, whose goal is to marry the Queen of England. (Actual thing.) The Gen-Y courtship ritual it’s surrounded by is very Sick Sad World filtered through the Fox marketing team, so that’s a thing to consider (my threshold wasn’t high, but your mileage may vary). And I’m not sure how much coverage a fifteen-minute cartoon will necessarily be getting in the long run, but that id party will probably end up on my Tumblr from time to time, let’s not even pretend otherwise.
It also has the potential to offer a very interesting glimpse into the pervasiveness and construction of tropes; the comic has offered some accidentally-scathing beats (the girl infant Uni-baby, who helps them by granting wishes, has as much agency as many grown women in cop shows), and there's an opportunity for more of the same here – a guided tour through the Michale Bay-ed folklore of a kid's head, dismantling the the hero's journey and riding a dinosaur out the other side. Unfortunately, there's a clearer delineation in the comic between what's been dictated and what's being tweaked, which leads to some small disconnects (did the kid want Hitler to be the default bad guy, or was that grown-ups' shorthand?). Still, I'm in for this ride; I definitely have 15 minutes a week that could use more flying dinosaurs and Bart Warthog Man friend issues.