Raising the Roofs
Regular airtime: Thursdays, 10:30pm ET (Spike)
Cast: Michael Roof Sr., Michael Roof Jr., Stevie Roof
PopMatters Film and TV Columns Editor
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Spike TV’s Raising the Roofs is either the greatest guilty pleasure ever or a sin so great it will lead to some manner of Rapture. A kind of reality-tv version of Beverly Hillbillies with bowel movements and body odor, it features two raging rednecks from Dunnellon, Florida flying out to Hollywood to visit their pseudo-celebrity kin. The resulting clash of cultures is predictable: West Coast liberalism vs. Red State retardation.
Michael Roof Jr. is the transplanted talent, a 20something semi-successful actor with a resume that includes parts in both xXx films, Black Hawk Down, and last year’s Dukes of Hazzard movie. Daddy Michael Sr. and Uncle Stevie fly to L.A. to see their pride and joy. The elder Roofs proceed to find California confusing and captivating.
Both men are retired Air Force, their bellies revealing lifetimes of feasting on beer and roadkill. They hick-thick accents call up images of gun racks, Confederate flags, and tractor pulls. Their conversations are punctuated with stereotypical observations, like “Look at them titties!” and “Get some!”, as well as copious cursing, including variations on the f-word, always bleeped out.
As characters, factual or fictional, the Roof brothers are a hoot, gross overstatements on the backwoods bumpkin, but a hoot nonetheless. They live in an insular world focused on alcohol, flatulence, and sloth. When they’re not farting in each others’ faces, they are stripping down to their skivvies to be a little more “comfortable.” Raising the Roofs has more shots of naked male torso than a Chippendales calendar, and viewers will more than likely discover an unhealthy fascination with these underdeveloped physiques. Michael Sr. has a stomach so round and large that one fears for surrounding objects, while Stevie looks like an inflated pork rind, his skin so pale and pasty, it recalls a sausage casing.
In fact, the entire point of Raising the Roofs is that Michael Sr. and Stevie are uncouth, slovenly butterballs with manners to match their beer-swollen stomachs. In the pilot episode, the brothers arrived at a palatial estate and rang the front door bell, squealing potbellied pig named Babe in hand (they were convinced that with all his screen credits, Michael has “made it”). Soon enough, they discovered that Michael lives in a loft apartment above the mansion’s garage, initiating the nonstop familial ribbing that must have forced the actor to leave home in the first place.
Spike TV’s version Tuckerville and The Surreal Life offers yet another chance to marvel at the collision of cultured and crass individuals. In this era of nu-reality, where true life situations have to be tweaked in order to ensure drama and/or comedy, Raising the Roofs is a baloney belch breathe of fresh air. Staged sequences in the first episode were obvious (as when, hoping to help Junior land a job, Michael Sr. and Stevie roamed around L.A. handing out his headshot), but nobody does dimwitted and stupid like the Roofs. Heck, they make Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey look like queen and king of Mensa.
When the brothers asked where they were going to sleep during their stay, Michael Jr. pointed to an incredibly small and rickety futon. As both men’s eyes bulged out of their sockets, Stevie stammered, “Is that some kind of bed?” On a standard sightseeing tour, Michael Sr. marveled at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, until he learned it was a movie house, at which point he slumped his shoulders and said, “I thought it was a castle.” They peppered their dinner at Benihana with ongoing village idiot-level inquiries (“Ever get a piece of food caught in your hat?”), and they dismissed Michael’s house rules with slack-jawed snickers.
Not everything about the show is low brow laughs. Some of the supposed comedy sequences are disturbing and repugnant. During the premiere episode, Stevie wet the futon during night, earning Michael Sr.‘s chewing out, as Stevie’s urine-stained underpants remained in full, foul view (we saw them again, along with the piss-streaked sheet, hanging from the mansion’s clothesline). Later, father tried to have a heart-to-heart with his son (the so-called plot of the pilot had Michael Jr. losing both his girlfriend and a job prospect because of his rube relatives), but pop was on the toilet at the time, and every piece of advice is enunciated by another blast of uncontrollable ass gas.
By definition, all this farting and foolishness is one-note. But Raising the Roofs has something special in Michael Sr. and Stevie, similar to Viva La Bam‘s Uncle Don Vito, unaffected and proud of it. In the sections staged to put the Roofs in comic clash with their surroundings, Michael Sr. and Stevie seemed uncomfortable and forced, but on a tour bus filled with cleavage-flashing females, they revealed their natural caddishness.
It’s true that sometimes the show seems like outtakes from a lost Farrelly brothers film or yet another humility TV show. Raising the Roofs appeals to viewers who like Jackass and Jim Carrey and those who remember Green Acres. To do so, it plumbs the depths of fat-drunk-and-dumbness.
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