Your New Favorite Show: Ugly Americans
I’m so glad that funny, adult-oriented cartoons are still being made. Ugly Americans is about to start its third season on Comedy Central, but I’ve been watching the first season on Netflix and I’m already enamored with the show.
Ugly Americans is about Mark Lilly, a social worker in an alternate-universe New York where vampires, demons, zombies, and creatures of all sorts are commonplace. Mark is dedicated if a little harried. His co-worker is a 400-year-old wizard named Leonard who drinks on the job and not much else. Mark’s roommate, Randall, became a zombie in order to win the affection of a girl who later turned him down for a warlock. Randall is now unemployed and promiscuous, with very few limitations on what he’s willing to do to get laid, and who or what he’s willing to do it with. Callie is Mark’s half-demon girlfriend (and supervisor) with terrifying mood swings and a dangerous sex drive. Other characters include Twayne Boneraper, the demonic bureaucrat in charge of Mark’s department, and Frank Grimes, an overzealous immigration cop with a keen hatred of non-humans.
The animation style of Ugly Americans is relatively lo-fi, somewhere between The Simpsons and Family Guy (perhaps unsurprising since it was developed for Comedy Central by David M. Stern, who was a writer on The Simpsons for 10 years). Locations are re-used in a very traditional sitcom style and characters are voiced by only a handful of actors. Most of the plots center around Mark having to deal with a case that has some kind of special difficulty integrating with human society. Thus the show is able to engage in relevant social commentary while still having werewolves and talking fish-people. Granted, the commentary never goes too deep; most of the time it’s jokes about prejudice and/or sexuality, sometimes both. I would favorably compare the tone of Ugly Americans to that of Futurama, whose zany, futuristic setting doesn’t hamper its ability to make clever jokes that are relevant to present-day audiences. A first-season episode entitled “Treegasm” was about two tree-creatures whose mating ritual becomes a huge event, exploited as entertainment by the city’s residents and news media. This episode’s sub-plot concerned Randall’s penis, which had become sentient and decided to run away as punishment for Randall’s unscrupulous libido. Another episode spoofed the Twilight “teenaged vampires in love” thing while having Mark combat an illness called “Mad Larry Disease” an affliction which turns its victims into clones of Larry King.
I’ll admit that I’m only on the 6th episode of Ugly Americans, but I’ve certainly been impressed so far. It’s not a gut-laugh-a-thon like Archer or early Family Guy, and it doesn’t quite have the heart of The Simpsons at their peak. I still recommend it unreservedly. It’s a funny cartoon with an amusing premise and some clever insights into the human condition.
And dick jokes.