I never really put too much stock in an animated show. Of course, I grew up watching and loving them, but over time my attitude towards them has kind of diminished. Sure, I still watch them, but really as just an easy, joke machine that I can use when I want a quick laugh, or lighten the mood after watching something dark. The vast majority of animated shows are like this, a conduit for easy jokes and ones in which you really couldn’t make through any other genre of television. I guess I should clarify that I’m talking about the like “teenage to young adult”-type of shows like the Sunday line-up of Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Simpsons and such on FOX, and as well as the more adult-orientated programming on Adult Swim, which I’m less familiar with, but know enough about.
Where shows like Family Guy and American Dad! are strictly joke machines with no heart, or they at least try for heart but never maintain it, thanks to Seth MacFarlane they’re a beast of their own. Home Movies is something different though, and reminded me, at least dramatically of early “Simpsons.” The Simpsons has always been an extremely funny show, but what always took it over the edge for me, especially beginning in seasons 4 through 6, was the heart it displayed and its willingness to tell stories about pain, trouble growing up, tribulations of parenting, and just deal with human issues along with the comedy. It was a beautiful thing and an insane clip at how many of these episodes were being produced and to the extreme quality that they were maintained at. Of course, now that they’re pushing double-digit seasons, it hard to maintain that balance, and the easier course of more stricter reliance on joke-telling begins to win out, and thus a big source of the dip in quality. South Park is more inherently out to tell jokes, but especially nowadays is heavily and brilliantly marred in the veil of satire, which lets them turn real and serious current issues and events into dick and fart jokes.
Where Home Movies plays into this all is its refusal to shy away from any of its subject matter. Where a multitude of more sit-comy animated shows revolve around a whole family, Home Movies is just Brendan Small, an eight-year-old, living with his divorced single mom and his younger sister. They deal with the traditional problems this situation would lead to, Brendan wondering about where his dad is, Paula (his mom) struggling to find steady work and provide for her son and create a good environment for him. The show is titled Home Movies because of Brendan and his friends Jason and Melissa’s penchant for making movies, basically at least one an episode, and also provides away to channel the themes of an episode and create an outlet for Brendon’s feelings, although it’s not always that blatant. I’m kinda making this show out to not be funny at all, but trust me it is, and H. Jon Benjamin is a huge part of it. Benjamin’s Coach McGuirk, Brendan’s soccer coach, is an increasingly big part of the show, as sort of a pseudo male role model to Brendon, but in the worst way possible with him saying and engaging in conduct that wouldn’t be the best for an eight-year-old to emulate. He’s endlessly funny, and is dually fantastic in large part to Benjamin’s skill as a voice artist.
Home Movies is great firstly because it’s funny and very much so, but also because of it’s realism and dealing with real human and family issues within this animated comedy framework, that usually doesn’t go that far. It’s an unseen point of view on my albeit limited experience with animated shows, but one that made the comedy realer and helped create a more lived-in universe.