Hill first appeared on the WB, viewers dismissed it.
To be fair, most viewers dismissed the WB out of habit,
as this was before the network became "the young girls'
network," as series creators Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
And so it sank,
an animated series a little bit too ahead of its time, perhaps.
Spun from the minds of two former producers on The Simpsons,
Mission Hill actually captured that mythical "slice
of life." Maybe too well, as even though it's only five
years old, already some of it feels dated.
The show found
a bit of new life on Adult Swim, and it's a shame that Oakley
and Weinstein hadn't had that as an outlet in the first
place. Watching these episodes, it's hard to imagine anything
else on the WB making a good companion show, except perhaps
Home Movies, which also died a too soon death there
only to be resurrected by Adult Swim.
Now the complete
series is available on DVD, where perhaps it can find a
new life and new viewers who don't really want to stay up
and catch it late at night. Don't expect a Family Guy
style machine gun crudity; this show has structure, depth
and nuance, with occasional crudity thrown in as the situations
French (Wallace Langham) lives a healthy slacker lifestyle
with his roommates. He's right at the upper age where success
can still be measured in partying, and that low-wage menial
job is only until somebody gets his art.
Into his life
comes ultra-uptight nerdy younger brother Kevin (Scott Menville),
alternately worshiping and chastising him for his pseudo-bohemian
lifestyle. Without hitting anybody over the head with it,
Oakley and Weinstein have the two teach each other a little
bit about life. But most of the time that warmth gets hidden
underneath wacky yet strangely realistic humor, often stemming
from Andy's roommates, Jim (Brian Posehn) and Posey (Vicki
characters start off as laughable, the show builds a respect
for them. Case in point, the older gay couple that the producers
claim provided the first gay kiss broadcast on network television.
At first they seem an easy shot if not outright stereotypical,
but by the last episode, "Plan 9 From Mission Hill," they've
become deep, real and unintentionally or not, a fitting
end to the series.
on the 2-disc set have optional commentary from a variety
of cast and crew. Oakley and Weinstein orchestrate the conversation
along with designer Lauren MacMullan. The conversation stays
surprisingly focused, with only one or two anecdotes actually
losing their point as a sidetrack gets sidetracked.
strike a delicate balance between being informative to those
discovering Mission Hill and acknowledging that their
fan base has heard it all before. None of it feels repetitive,
even when information does indeed get repeated on other
You can take
a little tour of the Mission Hill neighborhood and stop
off in little features that highlight some of the show's
quick jokes. Kevin's high school seems to have a strange
fixation with STD posters, and the neighborhood itself advertises
many products with great names - thankfully, we never see
anyone drink a Semen Martini.
Corners of that
tour also include behind-the-scenes looks. MacMullan takes
viewers through the character design, including a bizarre
thirties style alternative. Though no commentary gets made
on the voice-over section, the disc provides short clips
of the actors performing their roles side by side with pictures
of the characters.
For such a sadly
short series, this package is pretty comprehensive. It's
also a series worthy of the treatment. As the producers
comment, they took inspiration from comic book artists like
Peter Bagge and Daniel Clowes, not realizing that though
those artists get critical acclaim, they don't actually
have a wide circulation.
is accurate. Mission Hill does its inspirations proud,
and should find an audience on home video for those who
like their entertainment dry and quirky, just like their
Mission Hill - The Complete Series