TV Review | Hotbox 1.1

The Comedy Network hyped Hotbox (The Comedy Network: premieres June 2, 10:00 PM) well.  The strange intrusions into ad time helped drum interest in the show.  The promotion hasn’t been all that successful – the official website sucks.  The URL was weirdly formatted when first introduced.  Luckily, Hotbox is good enough to survive its crappy web site and references to Crotch Lake in its “commercials.”

Hotbox fulfills the Canadian cultural need to have an own-brand version of a popular show.  In this case, Hotbox emulates shows like Robot Chicken and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!  Hotbox is currently being paired with Tim and Eric, which makes perfect sense.  In my mind, it makes Tim and Eric look more like a pile of cat dung than it already is.

While Hotbox is less absurdist than its American counterparts, it’s at least comedically sound, its short-sketch edict taken from You Can’t Do That on Television.  The show could be less sophomoric in its humour, which is a problem Hotbox shares with The Jon Dore Television Show, but the writing is solid enough.  Unlike The Jon Dore Television Show, Hotbox displays better levels of consistency.

Hotbox is great in its attention to detail.  The Brad Piss segment mimics the style of an amateurishly-done commercial, the tape looking washed-out and badly edited.  The gag name is horrible, but the sketch wisely focuses on Piss’ inept hucksterism.  Another sketch, “Best Smelling Man Awards,” uses the VHS look to similar effect.  The humour comes more from the look of the commercials and cheap overlaid explosions than the extended body-odour gags.

Not everything on Hotbox works, but a surprising amount of it does.  The success of The Owl and the Man, created by Hotbox hyphenate Pat Thornton as a series of two-minute filler items, wasn’t a fluke.  Not surprisingly, The Owl and the Man has been subsumed into Hotbox.

Hotbox has a possible major weakness.  RoboCop and Lobsterman are recurring characters, and I’d like to know how “RoboCop shills products, creep” and “Lobsterman is crap at keeping a secret identity” deserve more than one sketch.  I hope Hotbox can find the variation necessary to keep the segments fresh, otherwise they will get old fast.  The first episode only scratches the surface of Hotbox, so subsequent episodes will be a complete toss-up.

If Hotbox can maintain its consistency over the course of a full season, this show should do well.  Like Jon Dore, Hotbox will attract a certain type of fan and alienate others.  It’s not a show with broad appeal.  Still, Canada needs more shows like Hotbox.  If How It’s Made can gain a worldwide following despite being a series of nicely-packaged industrial videos, I think Hotbox will find its niche.

Addendum (June 24, 2009) | The next two episodes are much worse than the first.  In retrospect, I should have watched more than the one episode of Hotbox before reviewing it.  While I’m not going to change the review of the first episode, since I did enjoy it at the time, putting it over Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! was a bit much.  I still don’t like Tim and Eric, but I jumped the gun on Hotbox.

I honestly had no idea the “possible major weakness” I alluded to in the first-episode review was, in fact, Hotbox‘s obvious major weakness.  Most of the recurring characters simply aren’t that well-realized.  Rage Rabbit is a lapine Incredible Hulk who gets frustrated with seemingly minor things.  “Dinosaur Man” is about a man who entertains kids by saying “dinosaur” after inane things.  Strict time limits notwithstanding, it’s hard to get behind one-note concepts like that.  I don’t know what the hell Team Course One is supposed to be.

I will note that Hotbox is either loved or hated.  Not trying to influence opinion, just saying it elicits strong reactions.  Of course, so did Girls Will Be Girls and Popcultured.

C. Archer
Le Social