I caught an episode of Kid Notorious, the cartoon on Comedy Central (Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.) about the life and loves of producer and Hollywood legend Robert Evans, and I must say I was pretty disappointed. There were some funny bits, and the visual aspects were beautifully done, but the level of humor was awfully low. In this episode, French President Jacques Chirac was one of the main characters, and Donald Rumsfeld had a sizable cameo. During a poker game with Evans, Rumsfeld peed his pants; earlier, Chirac peed in Evans’ pool. And despite being one of the most infamous womanizers on the international political scene, he also came out as gay.
When in doubt, or short of amusing material, the rule in contemporary comedy is to pile on the toilet humor until you can think of an actual joke. So, on Friends earlier this season, there was a birthday cake in the shape of a penis, and in this episode of Kid Notorious, Evans’ butler emerges from a crapper covered in shit. That’s what you call taking toilet humor literally.
Chinatown, one of several great films Evans produced in his heyday, was marketed as a thriller for grown-ups. Kid Notorious is supposed to be a cartoon for adults. I guess Hollywood’s idea of an adult has undergone a rethink. More like a dolt.
Raunchy humor fares much better on Blind Date (UPN, Mon–Fri, 3:30 p.m.), which is in the midst of a new season. It is also sporting a revised look, with ever more screen space taken up with jokey graphics commenting on the foibles of the romantic contestants, and thought bubbles telling us how they secretly feel. I’d say the writers are overdoing it a bit — there are moments when you can barely see the people for the editorializing — but, when you’re in the mood, this is still one of the funniest shows on television.
What’s good about Blind Date is that, unlike too much of Kid Notorious, its humor is based on shrewd observation. When two dates meet for the first time, as soon as one turns away for a moment the animation department immediately transforms the other’s eyeballs into searchlights as they greedily sweep over their counterpart’s body. This is funny because it’s what most men, and some women, actually do.
The real news, though, is that Blind Date has for the first time — at least as far as I’m aware — thrown a same-sex date into the mix. There is no reward for guessing which sex we’re talking about. The surprise is that even though it included a bit of cheerfully parodic “gratuitous girl-on-girl action,” the date between Chanda, who wanted genuine affection, and Diedre, who just wanted sex, turned out to be such a dud. And while the way to liven up future all-female dates couldn’t be more obvious — set up two girls who think like Diedre — it may tip the show’s carefully maintained balance between laughter and leering in favor of the latter. (Not that that would be all bad.) But the reliably amusing absurdities of male-female interaction are likely to remain the show’s strong point.
This was amply demonstrated during a recent episode featuring a hippy-dippy 37-year-old musician and greasily beatific free spirit called Israel. The show’s writers and animators, who are brilliant at creating instant caricatures of the contestants without dehumanizing them, immediately equipped Israel with a halo. When he smiled, little flashes went off on his teeth and a triangle went ding on the soundtrack.
Israel, judging from his portrayal in the show, is one of those natural-born extroverts it’s impossible to embarrass. He roped his date, a cute little New Yorker called Jennifer who was bored with her love life, into collecting tips for him as he sang a very bad song a cappella while standing in a fountain in Washington Square Park. Then, in a bar, he wowed her with a demonstration of his yogic control over his abdominal muscles. Jennifer lapped it up.
Two of the cartoon “experts” the program regularly draws on — “Therapist Joe,” a fusty old guy with a pipe and pince-nez, and “Dr. Date,” a chirpy 1950s ad-exec type — commented on the action. “Seems odd, right fellas?” asked Dr. Date rhetorically after the stomach-muscle demonstration. “But watch what it gets him now,” he added as Israel and Jennifer were shown making out in the bar.
Israel’s quirkiness, Therapist Joe wisely observed, “makes it safe for [Jennifer] to cut loose.” It certainly did. After she and Israel had ended a long, lingering and sexy goodnight kiss at her apartment door, Jennifer’s final thought-bubble read: Now I have someone I can cross-dress with. It was not only funny, but believable as well.