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'The Heart, She Holler' Premiere Episodes

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating

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'The Heart, She Holler' Premiere Episodes
Photo courtesy of Adult Swim

The Bottom Line

The Heart, She Holler is as bizarre as some of Adult Swim’s most extreme animated offerings, and just as baffling and unfunny.

Details

  • Stars Patton Oswalt, Kristen Schaal, Heather Lawless
  • Created by Vernon Chatman and John Lee
  • Miniseries airs November 6-11, 2011, at 12:30 a.m. EST on Adult Swim

Review

For people who are on their wavelength, the multimedia production crew known as PFFR are absolute geniuses, the subversive talents behind MTV2’s kids-show parody Wonder Showzen and Adult Swim’s computer-animated Xavier: Renegade Angel. And for PFFR fans, the group’s new six-episode Adult Swim miniseries The Heart, She Holler will probably be a welcome experience, with name-brand talents like Patton Oswalt and Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords) bringing to life PFFR’s brand of aggressively unpleasant anti-comedy. But for me, this show is like a lot of stuff on Adult Swim that’s debuted in the wake of the cult success of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!: It’s a whole lot of wearying weirdness for weirdness’ sake and deliberate audience provocation. Creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee no doubt delight in repulsing most viewers with their off-putting mix of gross-out gags, nonsensical plotting, shrill characters and unfunny jokes.

But there’s no real substance behind all of the in-your-face annoyance, which is a shame since the ostensible subject matter of The Heart, She Holler is prime for satire. It’s a soap opera in miniature, set in the dirt-poor Southern enclave of Heartshe Holler, where local tycoon Hoss Heartshe has just passed away. Hoss owned the entire town, and his two daughters Hurshe (Schaal) and Hambrosia (Heather Lawless) hope to inherit their father’s fortune. But Hoss leaves everything to his long-lost son Hurley (Oswalt), who’s spent his entire life locked in a vault with no light or human contact. He’s a little like the unfrozen caveman lawyer, with his complete lack of knowledge about the modern world, and he sets about running the town as cluelessly as possible.

That’s a straightforward way of describing the plot, but of course Chatman and Lee aren’t really interested in plot, and the idea of a show that actually parodies Southern melodrama goes out the window pretty quickly. The second episode revolves around Hoss’ former henchman falling in love with and kidnapping Hurley’s voodoo doll-esque companion, and only gets crazier from there. Adult Swim shows like Childrens Hospital and NTSF:SD:SUV start with genre parody and move out into weirder territory, but they always retain a base for what their jokes are about and what they’re making fun of. There’s no sense of what this show is about or what many of the jokes even refer to, and Chatman and Lee seem interested mostly in throwing in the most annoying, off-putting characters possible and then having them shriek at the camera. Occasionally there’s an amusing idea, but almost always the joke is then run into ground by repetition.

Oswalt is best at playing verbose, sarcastic characters, so his performance as monosyllabic man-child Hurley is a bit of a waste of his talent. But he’s still a strong actor, and both he and Schaal manage to make their characters at least somewhat consistent and human. The Heart, She Holler seems trapped between Chatman and Lee’s earlier, almost completely abstract and avant garde work and something more narratively coherent, with a discernible plot and characters. PFFR fans may even be disappointed in the comparatively conventional structure of this show, and its need to acknowledge things like plot and character. But that tension really shows the limitations of the group’s approach -- presented in a more recognizable format, it comes off as manic and desperate rather than eccentric and innovative.

Disclosure: A review screener was provided by the network. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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