Horror can be a tough sell. Horror comedies? They can be an even tougher sell, and that’s mostly because what one person finds funny another may find offensive. Horror comedies about high schoolers made and written specifically for a high-school-aged audience? Shoot, man, that might just be the toughest sell yet. If the comedy is broad enough, then the program will lure in an older crowd. If the effects are good enough, then it’ll bring in legitimate horror/splatter fans. Lastly, if it’s charming enough, then just maybe it’ll have the chance to find a fan base that’ll keep it on-the-air … even if that enthusiasm only lasts for a season or two.
Surprisingly, TODD & THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL did just that. Based on a short film of the same name, TODD aired on Canada’s Space Channel, and its premiere earned the distinction of becoming that channel’s highest rated premiere episode ever. That alone indicates it had something going for it. Add to it the fact that TODD’s first season earned a total of 8 Gemini Award nominations (Canada’s equivalent of the US’s Emmy), and it’s easy to see why there just may be something to get excited about on the boob tube again.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then this may not be for you. Instead, I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Growing up is tough enough. Imagine growing up in a town secretly founded by Satanists? That’s the challenge of Todd (Alex House) and his friends. To make matters worse, there’s this book – it’s a book of pure evil. It has the ability to grant whatever dark wish whoever holds it may make. But if Todd and his gang have their way, they’ll see the book destroyed, even if that means going up against their school’s fashionably evil guidance counselor, Atticus (Chris Leavins).
I have to be perfectly honest and admit that I never saw TODD’s first season. I’m not entirely sure it’s required viewing, though I’m inclined to seek it out now that I’m aware of how many awards it was nominated for. Also, I don’t know that it’s required viewing in order to appreciate the sometimes madcap, sometimes offensive, sometimes juvenile spirit so prevalent in Season Two. Critics have described the show as being similar to Joss Whedon’s BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER but with an increasingly potty mouth and mind, and I suppose that’s accurate. I didn’t have in trouble jumping on with the premiere of this second (and possibly final) season; it took me a bit to grasp the relationships, and once I had that down I was up for the struggle. Or is that down for the fight?
In any event, yes, TODD certainly pushed the boundaries of what was probably considered ‘funny’ with older, more adult audience members. I’ve never been all that fond of fart jokes; throwing in poop jokes, ongoing drug references, and some crude sexual innuendo really only made matters a bit muddier for me. However, I’ll have to also admit that I’ve always felt a certain fondness and affinity toward stories wherein knuckleheads, losers, and/or misfits have to “save the world.” That’s so much more of what at the heart of TODD … or perhaps I should’ve said “in its bowels.”
Granted, the writing really goes up and down quite a bit in terms of quality. Some jokes just didn’t work, while others were downright brilliant and underplayed. All of the actors embrace the lunacy, so it’s not hard to get caught up in whatever mess they were trying to sort out. Leavins – as their chief adversary Atticus – hits all of his marks perfectly; it’s clear he’s having fun with the material, and that kind of infectiousness only serves to draw the audience further into the program. Otherwise, the show was heavily peppered with mostly harmless adolescent sensibilities; it tried hard to tap into some of the day-to-day struggles of being a tween or a teen (i.e. cliques, fashion, dating, acceptance, peer pressure, cafeteria food, etc.). Still, much of the humor never developed beyond that common to ten year old boys. That’s not a bad place to be; it’s just one you may not want to be at for all of your life.
TODD & THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON is produced by Aircraft Pictures, Corvid Pictures, Frantic Films Live Action Productions, and Pure Evil Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by Entertainment One. As for the technical specifications, this show looked good; the sight and sound was consistently exceptional with some actually very nice blood and gore special effects work, along with the infrequent unconventional (CGI) stuff added in post. As for the special features, TODD fans have plenty to be excited about: the set includes three audio commentaries with the cast & crew; a nice blooper reel; deleted and extended scenes (not much but OK); an exploration of the show’s special effects work; some behind-the-scenes material; and a clever ‘In Memoriam’ tribute to Todd’s fallen classmates.
RECOMMENDED. Maybe I’ve grown too old and/or too wise and/or just plain too intolerant of cheap, gutter humor. As such, there’s plenty of TODD & THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL I didn’t enjoy. Still, there’s an immutable charm to any group of nitwits and/or misfits banding together all under the guise of saving mankind, and so far as this reviewer is concerned those are the best elements that work here. Todd, Hannah, Jenny, and Curtis are in many ways like Scooby Doo & the Gang – they’re just trying to get through life without all the forces of evil destroying their day, their friends, and their existence.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One provided me with a DVD copy of TODD & THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more