Comedy Central // 1999 // 240 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 13th, 2004
"Lead the way, you stupid junkie whore!" -- Principal Onyx Blackman.
The third and final round of Comedy Central's envelope-pushing, decency-skewering after-school-special parody arrives on DVD -- and Jerri Blank and her cronies are ready to go out in a blaze of...well, just a blaze actually.
For this swan song season, forty year-old Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) will face ten more episodes' worth of adolescent problems. A former doper, stripper, hooker, and loser, Blank decided to return to Flatpoint High and finish up her education. Aided by history teacher Chuck Noblet (Steven Colbert, The Daily Show), self-involved art teacher Geoffrey Jellineck (Paul Dinello), and the power-hungry Principal Blackman (Greg Hollimon), Jerri will traverse the treacherous terrain of STDs, racism, sexual harassment, peer pressure, and family life.
And nothing will be sacred.
I'm a big fan of this series. It's my favorite Comedy Central offering, and one of my favorite TV comedies overall. Sure, I find the writing uneven; but the hits far outweigh the misses. When coupled with memorable characters and absolutely zero respect for anything (there is no "taboo" in the universe of Flatpoint High), the result is an envelope-balling-up-and-lighting-on-fire parody of high school.
Taking a look at the ten episodes, we find:
* "Jerri's Burning Issue"
Jerri learns she has contracted syphilis after a routine rendezvous in the back of a cab with a strange man, and is reluctant to tell her cool, new boyfriend for fear of getting dumped. Along the way, she meets an amiable doctor with a disturbing, yet informative STD filmstrip, suspects Jellineck and Noblet may have contracted something as well (considering the cold sores on their face, which are roughly the size of Taiwan), and is nominated the queen of the ball. But does she come "clean" about her affliction and risk alienation, or face the burning sensation head on?
This is perhaps the most cringe-worthy episode of the set. The sight of
Jellineck's face alone is enough to clean out my stomach contents.
* "Trail of Tears"
When Jerri's stepmother drops a bombshell -- that she's adopted and her real mother was Native American -- Jerri must come to terms with her new-found ethnicity. She heads to a Native American camp, lorded over by Bob Whitely (Will Ferrell), and learns about shooting arrows into Pilgrim women, dealing cards, smoking from the peace bong, and painting her face. Confused, she turns to a secret smoke signal message left by her mother. Will she embrace her culture?
As politically incorrect as you can get, this episode parades every Native
American cliché out there, and does so in such outrageous fashion that
nothing can be taken seriously. The final sequence, which finds Jerri as the
lone Indian in a school play, is notable for its callousness. ("Save me
Satan!") And Will Ferrell as a camp director? Priceless.
* "Is Freedom Free?"
An assignment for Freedom Week leads to an impromptu nude photo session for Jerri. When she tries to submit the photo ("That looks like two longshoremen fighting over a squirrel") in the "Freedom Cage," it's rejected by Blackman and a maniacal priest, played by Dylan Baker. Jellineck sticks up for Jerri -- well, really, sticks up for himself -- and convinces her to go on a hunger strike. As the school watches Jerri's protest, the administration pulls out all the stops to end the display, eventually settling things with a plate of fudge.
Strangers with Candy is notable for its surprising array of guest
stars. Baker's character is a standout -- self-involved priest who volunteers
his crucifix to bludgeon Jerri. Yep, that's the kind of show we're dealing with
* "Invisible Love"
Jerri is involved in a clandestine relationship with a super-popular jock, who doesn't want the world to know anything about it. Jerri complies, meeting him secretly in vent shafts, garbage cans, behind the dumpster, and incognito in the science classroom. With the school's annual Make-Out party approaching, Jerri must choose between her dignity and her horniness.
This episode is great, and contains the creepiest sequence of the series
(and possible of any series ever). Jerri's best friend Tammy is urging her to
assert herself in the secret relationship, and points to her own relationship
with the science teacher as an example. Watching Tammy make out with the science
teacher at the big Make-Out party is, simply put, awful.
* "Is My Daddy Crazy?"
Stu, Jerri's "stepmother's lover," has embraced Jerri as his own child. For the first time, Jerri feels loved! However, it also appears Stu is losing his mind; muttering about the Red Squad, stapling cheese to the roof of the house, and beating Jerri's stepbrother Derek. With "What My Father Does for Work Day" approaching, Jerri yearns to have Stu come to class. But rumors of his madness have spread, and everyone fears for their lives, especially after learning Stu flung a hot pizza at Noblet's face and was hauled off to the institution. But Jerri has a possible solution -- and it involves a hand-drill.
A so-so episode with a few very funny moments -- the educational film about
insanity, Noblet's encounter with the pizza, and a surreal moment of goat
* "Blank Relay"
Yearning for a victory, Jerri and her track teammates decide to take steroids to enhance their performance. Principal Blackman, blissfully unaware and consumed with competitive fervor himself, casts a blind eye to the obvious after-effects of the performance enhancers -- particularly, the long, flowing beards.
Girls running track with beards. What more do you want?
* "Ask Jerri"
When Noblet tries to revive the student newspaper, he enlists the help of Jerri and her upstart advice column. Jerri opts, however, to issue the worse possible advice she can muster, resulting in quasi-anarchy at Flatpoint. Meanwhile, a rift between Jellineck and Noblet leads to a bitter argument, one that has the potential to turn homicidal.
Any episode with copious Noblet and Jellineck is fine with me. These two are
more visible in this episode, and Noblet's editorial process is hilarious.
("Why don't you go research me up a blueberry scone?")
* "There Once Was a Blank from Nantucket"
Sexual harassment is this week's theme. Jerri, usually fond of the demeaning names she receives from the fellas, decides to take a stand, especially when a new guy enters her life. At the big jazz concert, she will face, head on, the specter of verbal abuse.
One of my least favorite shows in the bunch, this episode's highlights
include Derek wrestling a girl and Jerri's big statement at the end of the jazz
Jellineck and Jerri must confront their own bullies: a homophobic violence-prone substitute teacher and a butch girl with fists of fury, respectively. While their peers cry out for blood, the two decide to stick up for pacifism -- but only for so long.
Light on the Noblet, but heavy on the Jellineck, this installment in Jerri's
saga is memorable for the sheer violence. The beating Jellineck takes at the end
is priceless, as are the lessons both he and Jerri learn.
* "The Last Temptation of Blank"
Ah, the series finale. Jerri partakes in the number one teen-movie/show cliché of all time -- the ugly duckling makeover. Fran (Winona Ryder), the coolest girl ever, agrees to a challenge: giving Jerri the full treatment. Of course, Jerri has to get rid of all her friends in the process. Does she abandon her relationships and hang out with the resident hunk (Paul Rudd), or stay true to her friends? Well, she may not have that much time to decide, as Jellineck, Noblet, and Blackman prepare for anarchy when they learn Flatpoint School is about to be turned into a strip mall.
A fine finale that is bursting at the seams with guest stars. Ryder is funny
(and hot!) Rudd is typically great, portraying a cool slacker dude. And then
you've got cameos by Janeane Garofalo, Mark McKinney, and Cheri Oteri. Good
The show is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio, and gets a sharp transfer from Comedy Central. Sound is "meh," as usual for these types of shows. A few extras come with the set, none nearly as cool as those on its predecessors. Sadly, there are no commentaries or making-of features; all you get is a gag reel, a dopey dance sequence compilation (from the end credits), and a storyboard comparison of the opening credits. Blah.
Finally, Comedy Central's cult after-school special send-up is complete. For fans of surreal, subversive comedy I recommend this series. It's not for everyone, but nothing is. I don't what that means.
A passing grade, though the lack of extras will and the accused a week of detention.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 240 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Blooper Reel
* Storyboard Sequence
* Dance Compilation