Judge Paul Pritchard is no ugly American. No sir, he's a stinking limey.
"My foreskin was bitten off by a creature, and I don't even know what it was!"
In the alternative reality of Ugly Americans, the population of the United States is overrun with werewolves, demons, zombies, and all kinds of fantastical creatures. The Department of Integration is tasked with helping assimilate these oddities into the American way of life. This is where our hero, Mark Lilly, works.
Mark finds himself slap bang in the middle of this bizarre culture clash. His best friend, Randall, recently turned zombie in an attempt to impress a girl—which backfired badly when the very same girl decided she preferred dating warlocks instead. Worse still, Mark finds himself in a relationship with his supervisor, Callie Maggotbone, a half human/half succubus, who suffers from wild mood swings due to her mixed heritage and is prone to going "demon" when getting intimate with Mark. Rounding out the cast are Mark's boss, Twayne the Bone Raper, a demon who produces a large bone from his chest when aroused; Francis Grimes, who leads the Law Enforcement division, and has a long history of run-ins with "illegals," with the scars to prove it; and finally Leonard Powers, a 500 year-old wizard, who due to some poor career choices has a desk job at the DOI.
Each episode revolves around one of Mark's cases, and his continuing relationship problems with Callie.
• "An American Werewolf in America"
• "Demon Baby"
• "Blob Gets Job"
• "So, You Want to Be a Vampire?"
• "Kong of Queens"
In theory, Ugly Americans sounds great; sadly it's a case of an interesting and potentially fun concept that is just never realized in a satisfying way. Had the writers used the various succubi, vampires, and OCD suffering giant apes to mirror our societies struggles to integrate different creeds and religions, we may have had an intelligent, thought-provoking, and hilarious commentary on life in the 21st century. But, frustratingly, they seem content to use this unusual premise for goofy jokes about zombies losing their junk. So often these jokes simply fall flat, with only the odd one hitting its mark, and lame gags about Wizards urinating on their robes producing groans at best. Likewise, Mark's comedy sidekick, Randall, is all too often reduced to spouting dick jokes and other such vulgarities, in the absence of anything resembling a well-written joke. I've said it before but it bears repeating: dick and fart jokes are fine, but they are not enough to sustain a viewer's interest for seven episodes…unless you're twelve.
There are moments where Ugly Americans: Volume 1 really shines. The character Frank Grimes, though mostly kept in the background, is frequently the source of much amusement, while the whole Christ Angel sequence is almost inspired.
Along with a couple of art galleries, and a sneak peek at a future episode, Volume 1 contains an audio commentary for each episode and a selection of webisodes. The DVD also comes with a booklet, "A Field Guide To Ugly Americans," which contains information on peacefully ending a Kong zoning violation and other such useful tips. The audio commentaries reveal the series creators, Devin Clark, Dan Powell, and David M. Stern to be particularly pleased with their product, even if I wasn't. They do point out a number of sight gags you may have missed, but honestly, as nice as it is to have the option there, I see little reason anyone would want to play the episodes with these tracks on. The webisodes, which it seems were the precursor to Ugly Americans, are the highlight of the set. Each webisode contains a series of interviews carried out with zombies, robots, and other freaks who discuss current events. These shorts are visually more appealing, and at the same time far funnier than the actual series, though that's not saying much.
Picture quality is fine, and hard to fault with a sharp and colorful 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. It's just a shame that the minimalist style adopted for the series is so unappealing. The audio, available in both 5.1 and stereo options fares a little better, as the show's soundtrack is more dynamic, with Callie's demon-style rants really standing out.
In summation: Ugly Americans: Volume 1 is a knowingly offbeat, occasionally funny, but ultimately disappointing mishmash of horror, animation, and sitcom. Rent it if you're really curious, but otherwise it's probably best to avoid.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
• Episode Commentaries
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