Not Giving Up
Despite the gap between the first two seasons of the animated sitcom Home Movies, the second season picks up seamlessly after the first. Running just 14 episodes, this season, now on DVD, broadens the charmingly miniature Home Movies universe. The series initially followed child filmmaker Brendon Small (age eight, in the sense that the Peanuts characters are alleged to be around eight), his best friends Melissa (Melissa Galasky) and Jason (H. Jon Benjamin), his single mother Paula (Janine Ditullio), and his frequently drunk soccer coach McGuirk (also Benjamin). In Season Two, more characters are introduced. The most prominent is Brendon’s father, Andrew (Louis C.K.), who re-enters his life, along with an unpleasant fiancée.
As Brendon grows up a bit, his father figure Coach McGuirk regresses, if this is even possible for a character already so thoroughly regressed. McGuirk displays an appealingly childish jealousy in several episodes: in “History,” he envies that Brendon gets a history tutor who actually knows what he’s talking about, and in “Pizza Club,” he’s upset when Brendon begins spending more time with Andrew. The balance between genuine emotion (McGuirk’s attachment to Brendon) and outright insanity (McGuirk is just the soccer coach, after all) deepens the character without betraying his basic nature.
Small, Bouchard, and Galasky discuss this extension of the show’s world, beyond Brendon, his friends, and his coach in an interview on the second disc. They cite “Pizza Club” as one of their “best” episodes, and imply that Season Two may be the most serious of the four they completed. In the other extras, especially the episode commentaries, the cast and creators produce deadpan banter with a dedication bordering on compulsion.
In another feature, Small interviews Galasky (who was largely absent from the earlier DVD set). Their quasi-awkward, low-key riffing brings to mind grownup versions of their characters on the show, as if Brendon and Melissa of Home Movies have met again in college (the effect is equally neat and eerie). “I think that we became friends because we both quickly realized,” Galasky says, “Neither of us was gonna… give up.” She’s speaking of their shared knack for inserting detached comedy where other people have conversations. As she observes, when Small and Galasky first met, each became aware of the other’s willingness to continue “where other people would want to stop the conversation… and not be involved in a ‘bit.’”
This quirky dedication generally serves the show well, but allows for some indulgences, too. A chunk of the aforementioned “History” episode features long passages from one of Brendon’s movies, a space adventure as epic as it is incomprehensible. Brendon and Jason play heroic spacemen fighting an evil cadre of supervillains: George Washington, Pablo Piccaso, and Annie Oakley. It’s also a rock musical. The effort by Brendon and his creators is sort of hilarious but also sort of daunting; Brendon’s movies are funnier in tinier bites.
In fact, despite the increased scope of Brendon’s film projects, many of Season Two’s innovations are in his “real” life. Two new characters, Perry (Benjamin again) and Walter (Small again), a pair of giggly, not-very-ambiguously-gay classmates, pop up around the edges of Brendon’s world, though they seem to inhabit their own world. When they do find themselves in the spotlight, in “Writer’s Block,” they connect with outsiders via a poem written about a classmate, sensitively entitled, “We Hate Fenton” (to be fair, Fenton [Sam Seder] has, at this point, amply displayed his sourness in “Fenton’s Party”). These moments are best enjoyed without the help of the commentary tracks, which go off on amusing but sometimes pointless tangents. Small, Bouchard, and Galasky are likable humans, but sweeter cartoons.
Home Movies seems like an outlet for a sincerity with which its creators seem, at times, less than comfortable in their own lives. It gives their endless back-and-forth joking a proper goal and their characters a chance to develop. One wonders what would’ve become of idiosyncratic comic minds like Small, Galasky, and Benjamin’s without it.