Our review of Son Of The Beach: Volume 2, published November 17th, 2008, is also available.
Ride the big one
Why is toilet humor funny? After all, aren't we making merry references to such things as bodily functions, human odors, and personal plumbing? Isn't the discussion of these entities, in the most surface of situations, graceless and disgusting? So why is it when comics start jiving about their "Johnsons" or perpetuate the passing of poots we find ourselves doubled over in hysterics, not nausea? Freud concluded that there are several stages to the development of the human psyche and he gave them obsession-appropriate names like the "oral" and "genital" phase. Apparently, after eons of individual enlightenment and social progress, we are stuck in the "phallic" and "fecal" modes, correct? For some odd reason, all of our current modern popular culture is about "wieners" and "fudge." Hollywood has even delved deeper and denser into the back and crack sides of people hoping to mine some mucus style amusement. Movies like There's Something About Mary, American Pie, and South Park, Bigger, Longer and Uncut have relied heavily on caca, pee pee, and man "juices" jokes to sell outrageous bawdiness to a nation primed by reality TV to accept anything as entertainment. During that late 1990s (doodie humor's heyday), the FX Network greenlit a show co-produced by that panderer of personal putrescence himself, shock jock jokester Howard Stern. Son of the Beach, a Baywatch spoof, filled its wit wading pool with enough dong, dung, and derriere puns and putdowns to choke a chicken. But the funny thing about this juvenile gagfest is that it is indeed funny. Somehow, it manages to move beyond the BM to score honest laughs.
Facts of the Case
The lifeguard team for the city of Malibu Adjacent (next to the real celebrity beach haven—get it?) struggle on a daily basis to protect the citizenry from the ravages of the sea and sand. From their Shore Patrol Force Headquarters, #30 to be exact, they monitor beach activity and stay vigilant for Hispanic families swimming in their clothing. This world famous power for good consists of the following heroic figures:
Notch Johnson: Known as the World's Greatest Lifeguard, and with good reason, there is basically nothing that this underdeveloped dynamo doesn't excel at. From speaking multiple languages to constantly utilizing his ethically diverse past, Notch is a true leader and visionary within the world of water safety. It's just too bad that Mayor Massengil doesn't see it, or him, that way.
Chip Rommell: A German exchange lifeguard, Chip has a very Reich-tious viewpoint regarding order and discipline within the SPF-30 unit. Aryan to a fault, Chip is an overdeveloped steroid of a beach patroller with a torso several times larger than his Teutonic brain. Still, he's good-natured enough to goosestep only on special occasions.
B.J. Cummings: A typical blond bimbo from the wrong side of the trailer park, B.J. is as mentally challenged when it comes to problems in the real world as she is gifted at all mouth-to-mouth techniques. With a chipper attitude and a body to match, she is SPF-30's resident ray of light. She is also a virgin, and plans on staying one until she is married.
Jamaica St. Croix: A hot home girl from the 'hood, Jamaica is an Ebonics spewing, fun loving free spirit who puts passion before practicality in her quest to keep Malibu Adjacent safe for swimmers and sun lovers alike.
Kimberlee Clark: Originally a spy for the Mayor, she has now joined the SPF-30 crew as a loyal member of the lifesaving squad. She is considered a prude by her fellow beach patrollers and always seems to have the intelligent answer to problems. She also has a secret crush on Notch.
Mayor Anita Massengil: The disgruntled elected official of Malibu Adjacent, Mayor Massengil seems caught up in a neverending battle of wills and will nots with her nebbish nemesis Notch. While her anger may just be misplaced lust, Her Honor still has a difficult time dealing with the popular beach benefactor and his crew of sea saviors.
Kody Massengil: the Mayor's incredibly gay son, who constantly dreams of being Chip's non-Bavarian cream puff.
Representing the first season and a half of the show's run on the FX cable channel, this DVD box set contains 21 half hour episodes. Included in the box are:
"With Sex, You Get Eggroll" (Pilot)
"Silence of the Clams"
"In the G-Hetto"
"Love, Native American Style"
"Two Thongs Don't Make a Right"
"Fanny and the Professor"
"Eat My Muffin!"
"South of Her Border"
"Day of the Jackass"
"A Star is Bones"
"Attack of the Cocktopuss"
"Mario Putzo's…The Last Dong"
"B.J. Blue Hawaii" (First Episode of Season 2)
"From Russia, With Johnson"
"Remember Her Titans"
"Rod Strikes Back"
"Light My Firebush"
"Chip's a Goy"
"A Tale of Two Johnsons"
The spoof is one of the most difficult comedy concepts to pull off successfully. There are certain parameters and prerequisites that must be followed and met before the humor can even begin to work. First, the genre sent-up must be recognizable enough, filled with the formulas and clichés that comfortably link the viewer to the comic vision they are supposed to be recalling. Second, it should also be universal, meaning that other ideas and issues can be linked to it without a lot of difficult inferences. Third, the story should be populated with easily recognizable, near simpleton characters. Mockery is not the place for complicated personality issues or moody interpersonal turmoil. Nothing kills comedy quicker than conflict. Good guys wear white and the black hat and twisted mustache of the silent film era rules within the parody's villainous universe. Fourth, the gags must come fast and furious, using a "dog pile" theory to create a kind overextended hyper-comedy. Basically, if one joke doesn't work, there should or needs to be five more coming within the time it takes for you to realize you're not laughing, to fill the void. Occasionally, filmmakers and TV producers get it right. Movies like Airplane! and the Naked Gun series (itself based on the cult classic Police Squad shows) have shown that, when playing by the rules and breaking them at the same time, a comedy classic can be created within the world of bad puns, joke names, and crazy, clever send-ups. Failure is always an option (and for many, a foregone conclusion), but if handled properly, big chuckles can come from even the most infantile, lowbrow bumbling.
Son of the Beach falls just short of being a classic along the lines of a ZAZ Brothers creation or the glorious past parodies of Mel Brooks Borscht Belt burlesques. But at its good-natured core is a desire to mix satire with sex and shit to create a delicious farce that pleases the intellectual along with the lowest common commode denominator. It is, first and foremost, a very funny show. But the laughs are occasionally hit or miss. Just when a tidal wave of witticisms needs to come along to bolster the belly laugh factor, Beach leaves the levity stranded on the seashore, snickerless. A viewer new to this brain dead Baywatch (wait, isn't that the same thing?) may be appalled by the way the wit is always aimed at the crotch or buttcrack, but overall, the show's bubbling optimism and friendly faces sell the salaciousness with a childlike innocence. We never once feel dirty watching a show that wallows constantly in and out of the gutter. Son of the Beach is like listening to ten year olds discussing sex for the first time. It is filled with funny filth names, dirty double entendres, and the occasional sharp parody of popular culture. It's a lot like South Park if only that show's nine-year-old main characters actually acted their age.
One of the reasons Beach works so well is that it knows exactly what it is selling, and whom it is selling it to. This is a program totally in tune with the male id, so much so that it seems directly wired into a guy's girlie guilt complex. In its cast of comely lasses are the prototypical visions found within the boundary of the male fantasy. Star Jaime Bergman is the quintessential blonde, a mix of Jayne Mansfield with a flotation device. Her all tease and no release B.J. Cummings uses naïve stupidity to sell some of the most vulgar, crude jokes in the show (her name should tell you that at least). But Bergman does it with such gleeful good spirits that you can't help but giggle along. Leila Arcieri's Jamaica St. Croix possesses one of the finest female forms ever to come sauntering straight out of Compton. Sure, her ghetto-speak wears thin after a while, but it also helps define her character as an awkward outsider looking in. She seems the most level headed of the SPF crew, able to handle most situations with chutzpah, heart, and her huge breasts. Even Kim Oja as the show's resident dork (but secretly delicious) Kimberlee Clark has her hubba-hubba moments. Decked out in a matching set of black lingerie or skintight one piece, she gives guys not thrilled with things silicone filled a taste of "natural" beauty. The fact that the show's creators find a way, every episode, to deposit these lovelies into imaginary dream sequence montages filled with racy imagery, oiled skin, and craven carnal cheesecake indicates that, when it comes to the success of Son of the Beach, they feel their toast is best buttered on the bawdy, bosomy side. And they'd be right.
But even with tits the size and shape of Texas, Son of the Beach could not succeed without a comic foil, someone who can sell the jokes amid the jiggles. Thankfully, co-creator and writer Tim Stack fills the flabby sandals of the nincompoop Notch Johnson with just the right amount of oblivious bumbling. Stack, remembered by many for the numerous TV and movie appearances he's made, may be best known for his syndicated spoof of television talk shows, Night Stand with Dick Dietrick. But unlike that mostly unfunny farce, a Jerry Springer for the stupid show style, does not hem him in here. Son of the Beach has the freedom to do whatever, whenever it can to milk a laugh or provide a leer. Stack, as its ridiculous ring leader, delivers his silly sexual non-sequiturs with devious aplomb and occasionally, you can see the wink behind the wince inducing line. Nowhere is this more true that in his end credit sequence teen talks. Here Notch moralizes about a specific, not necessarily linked to the plotline, aspect of the show. Within these two-minute bits you can sense the sarcasm coming to a head, as Stack wants to add one more layer of lewdness to the proceedings before you leave. Sure, other comic foils, like the Nazi/Jew joke spewing Roland Kickinger (the best bodybuilder ever to act in a major TV series) and the hatefully repressed Mayor Massengil, are good for a twitter or two. But Stack carries the comic weight of the show on his puny underdeveloped shoulders and succeeds as an Atlas of anarchy.
The best episodes on these DVDs are ones that proffer their off color hijinks with some imagination and sly satire. Especially entertaining is "Love, Native American Style" that abuses the entire non-PC idea of redmen and their casinos for what is, essentially, a non-stop salacious but hilarious ethnic joke. From the testicular name of the tribe to the scenes set in Paris (complete with misguided mimes), this episode exemplifies how Son of the Beach can get it perfectly right while being so morally offensive. Even more controversial is the banned for re-airing episode "Chip's a Goy," which substitutes Arabs for injuns and treats terrorism (in a decidedly pre-9/11 mindset) like the set-up to an elaborate punch line. There is no question that the show wanders willfully into bad taste (with guest Gilbert Gottfried, it has no choice but to do so), but it also makes a deliciously deviant statement about the world, especially in light of our current homeland security scare tactics. But Beach doesn't always have to push the envelope to generate laughs. Episodes like "South of Her Border" and "Day of the Jackass" utilize brilliant stunt casting (in the case of "Border," a rather rotund and jocular Erik Estrada while "Jackass" features a wigged out Alan Thicke as a military mercenary murderer) to up the chuckle factor. Within their limited, one-note roles, these has-beens shine brightly. Along with straight ahead sex farces like "Two Thongs Don't Make a Right" (nothing funnier than a pale white man's sagging butt cheeks) and classic cinematic send-ups like "Queefer Madness" (starring David Arquette, Lukas Haas, and Neil Patrick Harris as juvenile delinquents in search of a malt shop to manhandle), Son of the Beach has many merriment maneuvers in its arsenal.
But this doesn't mean they always work. Sometimes, the very thing Beach uses so skillfully in other episodes comes back to bite them in the bullocks. Someone needs to tell Mark Hamill that simply accepting a role as a perverted preacher man love cultist does not automatically change his Jedi persona. You need to invest the role with some manner of menace or mischief. Unfortunately, in both "Eat My Muffin" and "Rod Strikes Back," Hamill's Divine Rod is as amusing as an Ewok. Also, sex jokes, when they are too obvious, show their desperation. "Attack of the Cocktopuss," with its title alone, stands at the precipice of just plain foolishness. Once the combination sea creature sex toy being emerges from the surf, all subtlety bets are off and the episode quickly degenerates into beating a dead dildo prop. Sometimes, an episode is underwritten, as is the case with "From Russia With Johnson." Here, the show scores Chekov himself, Walter Koenig in full "nuclear wessels" mode, and fails to do anything funny with him except feed him "v's" to mispronounce. But in the grand scheme of things, Son of the Beach is a winning, winsome show filled with well-timed humor and excellent, honest performances. It just so happens that it utilizes genitals, bodily functions, and other cesspool patrons to paint its portrait of beach ribaldry with an appropriate layer of luscious lasciviousness. Don't expect messages of hope, peace, diversity, or understanding. Just be prepared to laugh your libido off.
Offering a season and a half of Son of the Beach on DVD, at first, seems like some kind of misguided 20th Century Fox con job. Sure, you get more episodes than had they simply offered the Complete First Season on disc. But with only half of Season Two presented here, you are left half into any long term story arc (the flirtation between Notch and Kimberly) and now must wait for who knows how long to satisfy those cliffhanger hankerings. However, on closer inspection, Fox is actually doing the show's fans and the consumer a favor by offering Beach in this fashion. Since its cancellation after Season Three, another affordable priced three-disc volume will more than easily complete the entire show's run, and this means one less box set to buy. Still, 21 episodes seems like a lot, and with an average of seven to a disc, there should be compression and transfer concerns. Well, Son of the Beach is not a complicated artistic series requiring complex remastering to look better than broadcast wonderful on DVD. Even with commentaries and extras (see next paragraph), we get clean and bright versions of the show. Beach is drenched in a rainbow like primary color scheme and the image presented here radiates those hues beautifully. Occasionally, the picture can grow soft or fuzzy, but this seems original to the show's production. Overall, Son of the Beach looks very good on its new digital homestead.
Content-wise, Fox offers some interesting, if more or less in-joke style featurettes, that continue the anti-feminism aspects of the show. Especially funny (but rather pointless) are the bikini babe workouts supposedly acting as behind the scenes looks at the cast and crew of Son of the Beach and the star's make-up artists. Better are the made for FX promo packages that at least showcase the real cast discussing their roles and their readiness to ride ribald for a basic cable paycheck. Highlights of the obligatory sexy montages, as well as three new ones with such scandalous names as "Baby Oil," remind us that, even in the bonus material, it's always good to play to the male package. But what longtime fans of the show are probably looking forward to most are the new intros from Notch himself, helping to set up each DVD with his own brand of selective reasoning and some episode specific commentaries. Unfortunately, unless you want to hear Stack and his gang of co-creators ogle the actresses, both recurring and guesting, and laughing along with the jokes in each show, you are bound to find these narratives wanting. Indeed, Tim and the boys (with occasional help from Jaime Bergman and Roland Kickinger) seem unable to work up a decent anecdote about filming these filthy funfests except to repeat how "cold" or "near sunset" it was. No one discusses Mark Hamill (the commentaries exist on only about 1/3 of the episodes) and even when a guest star can be discussed (Estrada in "Border"), we simply get perfunctory glad-handing about how "great" they were. There is nothing of true value offered in these alternative tracks. It's a shame, since it would have been nice to hear how adults as supposedly intelligent as Stack and company could consistently come up with such silly sophomoric sex jokes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
You can paint it up like a trash trailer park child bride or try to intellectualize it out of its septic tank foundations, but when it comes right down to it, toilet comedy is cheap. It's the Hamburger Helper of humor. It's the frozen TV dinner you quickly pop into the microwave to nuke before wrestling's freak show takes over your brain waves. It is like lewd, lame literary shorthand for a joke. More and more writers who find themselves stunted for real wit and cleverness simply pull out the old trouser trumpet and let one rip. They smear feces on foreheads and build bikinis out of earwax and then wonder why critics and complainers come calling. Son of the Beach is no different. It wants us to believe that it is some stupid, stunted parody of Baywatch, in and of itself a spoof of talent and tastefulness and shout "Amen." It's supposed to guide us to the gross out comedy light and aid in our conversion to the cause of crassness. But nothing can make Beach intelligent or clever. It is artistically simplistic and emotionally retarded. What it stands for is an exercise in juvenile name calling in the position of character development. Labeling someone a dickhead or penis breath may have seemed brainy while you scrambled around in your Garanimals, but as adult style comedy, even with fetching female forms to ogle, it's groan inducing. Son of the Beach may sell itself as There's Something About Mary by the Sea. In reality, it's further proof that writers, along with most men, think with their crotches.
After spending seven plus hours with Son of the Beach, it is safe to say that you will hear every variation on the fart, dick, dyke, vagina, breast, butt, fellatio, fornication, oral, anal, homo, hetero, urine, feces, semen, testicle, and hymen joke ever created, including many you never even knew existed. It is also a secure bet that every minority group, from the Latino to the Latvian, will find their culture and race ridden through the mud on the way to the three babe wrestling match by the off-kilter sense of humor in these half hours of horniness. But like the best parodies, Son of the Beach knows when to play fair and when to bludgeon its targets over the head with hooters. Perhaps viewing it in one big DVD box set gulp is the proper way to experience the show. Over the course of 21 episodes filled with 22 misguided minutes of mixed metaphors and sophomoric potty humor, the experience becomes a kind of video one-upsmanship as each story strives to outdo the other in sinful silliness. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes they fail. But overall, you will find yourself holding back the laughs over names and notions you thought you'd left behind in fourth grade. Son of the Beach is indeed a show that celebrates toilet humor in all its foul, fetid, funny facets. And it occasionally throws in some cunning pop culture dissections to air out the outhouse. It may never be considered a classic of the television medium, but then again, would you want your Johnson locked up in some stuffy museum, tourists and scholars able to fawn over it all day long? I thought not.
Son of the Beach is found guilty of being a salacious, silly, sexually askew spoof. But since that is what it strives to be in the first place, the court has no choice but to sentence the series and 20th Century Fox to another DVD volume of this wonderfully juvenile testament to the power of toilet humor.
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Scales of Justice
• Writer / Director / Cast Commentaries on Selected Episodes
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