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11 October 2010

TV review - MONGRELS

           The root problem with Television, Movies, Books, Comics, Art, is that we have seen everything and there’s little to none creativity left in this World. That is not a problem though (if you are James Cameron or Christopher Nolan) but it actually turns into one if people and “creators” don’t wrap the plots and ideas into refreshing concepts with good writing and a scoop of aggressive personality. To put it simple, what John Doe said at the end of “SE7EN” about calling the attention of people using a sledge-hammer happens to be the most needful thing in any entertainment media since 1999, but sometimes is used the wrong way.

Nothing is safe from the lack of originality of today’s world, that thanks to the internet has turned deader than usual, and that when a movie that presents a refreshing concept of a very clichéd, very manned, used by everybody-plot gets mauled by the critics, the nerds, the assholes and every fucker in sight. So the only way to make something original anymore is by trying to wrap an existing concept in as many layers of flimsy wrapping paper as possible, such as political message, gore, sex, swears, bad taste, terrible writing, pretty visuals, and furries.

Well look no further because “Mongrels”, a TV series starting puppets made by BBC One and aired halfway through 2010, is pretty much that, minus the bad taste, the terrible writing and the pretty visuals. “Mongrels” is what would happen if you let Peter Jackson in control of a low budget team of puppeteers, after he had finished the shoot of “The Lovely Bones”, but while many (unfair) people have compared it to “Meet the Feebles” it only shares with that movie the fact that it’s starred by animal puppets, and that they swear and make sexual jokes. It is difficult for a concept like this to stand out and resist the pass of time and several views of it. Like what happened with the actual “Meet the Feebles” and basically any Peter Jackson film, after you watched it 3 or 4 times the novelty wears off and you just move back to watch something else. Whatever your concept is you need good writing, even if it’s a stokehold of clichés, you need writing solid enough to withstand a nuclear explosion. Luckily, “Mongrels” has that.

Mongrels” is one of those rare shows where everything should fail and fall apart like cards in a castle made by an epileptic, but surprisingly enough it all works extremely well, so before going to criticize the bad aspects let me gush a little and talk about the things I really like about this series, and since we started with the writing let’s go with it. “Mongrels” is the day to day life of five animals that live outside a pub in the center of London, being: A metro sexual Fox called Nelson, his sociopath brother Vince, an afghan female self-centered dog called Destiny, a socially retarded insert-nationality-here-but-definitely-foreign house cat called Marion, and an aggravating angsty pigeon named Kali. The structure of this show is like a mix of several other shows if they were given a shot of steroids. We have the obligatory guest stars, though only for those living in the UK will the joke it is still funny to se these people sacrificing some dignity to have a laugh. We have the very usual “cuts to past events” that were patented by “Family Guy” but this time they actually take a massive piss on whatever they are mentioning (again very UK related, but hey it is still funny). At least every episode features a full blown musical number with subjects ranging from “Paedophilia”, “Animal Abuse”, “Castration”, “Xenophobia” and “Divorce” (and yes, they are glorious, each one of them). But what makes the writing so incredibly good is how solid it is. You know how “Seinfeld” stopped being funny after the 5th time they aired it on TV? Well, that happens with “Mongrels” in certain episodes, but they are still an enjoyment to watch because the writing is good enough to stand on its own without needing comedy and gags. That’s a claim not everybody can make, not even in movies, and especially comedy ones. They break so many rules and no-noes you just keep watching to see what border they cross next, which few other shows can claim.

But if the writing is so good, what about the characters, you may be wondering. Well the five protagonists are really well written and thankfully have more characteristics than a videogame character. Nelson is a metro sexual fox obsessed with beauty and fashion, who likes to transvestite, refined cook, is a pansy and is in love with Destiny, the afghan female dog with such a high concept of herself you think she might suffer from vertigo. Her defining character moment is when she lets a kid drown in national television so she doesn’t ruin her fur. She is also self-centered, egoist, selfish, and quite stupid, but has a cunning sense of murderous rage that only shows up when her goals are threaten. Marion, the cat without a defined nationality is a stupid ass who just gets in troubles once and again for being a gullible idiot leading to him becoming an addict to catnip, a Guy Fawkes avatar, a Christian and castrated. He also has some of the best lines in the entire show, being the best this one:

- Marion: “I don’t drink no more. Not after what happened with Oliver Reed”
- Destiny: “What happened with Oliver Reed?”
- Marion: “He got cirrhosis of the liver and he died”

Kali is a pigeon whose goal in life is insulting every single individual in the show, no matter how cruel, low or soon it is, with a murderous obsession with killing humans only matched by that of Bender from “Futurama”. She is fowl, she has no morals and she will go to any length just to reach her objective, though this paints her like a sociopath it’s nothing compared to Vince. Vince is Nelson’s brother, and maybe the only true animal of the entire group. He is a sociopath who eats his own children, beats his wife, screws his own sister and greets everyone with a cockney accent and a cheerful “Morning c*nts!”. He is, by far, my favorite character and, while this sounds totally biased, he is as over the top as subtle. Every time he says a swear worst than bastard he gets bleeped, which makes the comedic effect even more powerful. Yeah, swearing can get tiring, but the bleeping is wonderful as it lets your imagination fill in the gaps (even if such imagination only fills it with two or three different swears each time).

So story and characters are very solid, as well as the setting, the gags and the writing, what can be negative about this show? Well, let’s take into account the fact that these guys are working on a budget, and I am pretty sure they had less than a million pounds to do puppets, hire actors and build sets, sot he amount of characters, special effects and celebrities they have for this is outstanding. They recycle some of the puppets various times, sometimes with different colors, sometimes with different voices, which might be confusing sometimes. In one episode a kitten has a lovely young female voice, and in another episode the same kitten has the voice of Jimmy Hoffa. But this is due to the limitations so I think my only negative criticism for this show goes towards BBC One. Come on guys! Give them more money so in season 2 Nelson tries to go to Space only to fall in love with the remains of the Laika Dog, and then have a musical number with aliens about the necrophilia.

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