Axe Cop/High School USA – 11:00pm and 11:15pm Eastern Saturday Nights on FOX
It’s been a couple of years since Saturday Night Live has had any credible competition in the Saturday late-night time slot. The network that feels the most comfortable filling that void, oddly enough has been Fox, a network that runs less prime time than other networks and with the exception of sports programming avoids all other hours at all costs. While Fox’s last attempt at this slot fought fire with fire in the long running and painfully unfunny sketch comedy MadTV, it’s newest late-night strategy instead seems lifted from the Adult Swim playbook, putting two 15-minute animated shows into one half hour.
The first show in this block, Axe Cop, is derived from a web-comic of the same name written by Ethan Nicolle. The series follows the adventures of the titular Axe Cop (voiced by Nick Offerman) and his partner in crime-fighting Flute Cop (voiced by The State alum Ken Marino), as they deal with otherworldly issues that fall outside of the line of standard issue police work.
The second, High School USA!, is the latest creation from Morel Orel creator and Community writer, Dino Stamatopoulos. It follows a group of cheery young Millenials through the standard high school experience, if your high school was full of the hypersensitive types that say “Totally!” a lot.
Seeing how these shows are half-length in nature, I’m going to do away with a plot synopsis and do something similar to what I did with The Following and aim for quick thoughts on both new shows.
Axe Cop: This show is hilarious, in large part because of it’s juxtapositions. This is both because it routinely mixes mundane with AWESOME! (A key plot point of our first episode involves the costs of renting a dinosaur horn and Axe Cop trying to avoid late fees). This conflation is possible because it mixes the storytelling of a five year old (Nicolle’s grade school aged brother writes the major arcs) with references no five year old should ever get and some comically hypocritical humor. Additionally, the voice cast does an excellent job selling the fact that a five year old is telling a story without going into intentional bad acting mode.
High School USA! This show exhibits a lot of traits with it’s predecessor, though while Morel Orel ripped apart fundamentalism, High School USA sends up the modern day high school experience. It does so using the same broken Aesops and hypocritical authority figures (the best line in the show comes when the teacher who kicked out a student for bullying mentions that he can “compromise his values for a little music”). While it’s weird to see the Archie meets Happy Days vibe hit a contemporary target, watching Marsh whip up a twisted version of what constitutes bullying through sheer good intentions brings you back into familiar territory for Stamatopoulos.
The Final Verdict: Fox has a winner on its’ hands with it’s new animation block. While not as creatively adventurous, it’s a breath of fresh air to see the manic nature of Adult Swim played out on broadcast TV. Axe Cop in particular espouses this energy, as every time you turn around the show throws another twist at you that is equal parts ridiculous and awesome, but conveys the wonderment of the eight year old who lays out the story arcs. High School USA also exhibits that same energy by fearlessly committing to it’s subversion and satire of surface level morality (which mirror a more real moral about acceptance). Check both out when you have time, whether its from being stuck in on a Saturday night or online at Fox’s new Animation Domination High Def site.