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ISSUE 116 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/28/2003

Animated history lesson: Series places historical figures in high school setting

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 28, 2003

Joan of Arc is in love with Abe Lincoln. However, Abe’'s trying to hook up with Cleopatra, who just broke up with JFK for the 20th time.

This isn’'t what you slept through in history class. This is the backdrop for MTV’s new half-hour series "“Clone High USA,”" just one of the many cartoons aimed at teenage and adult viewers this season. In response to the popularity of such cult hits as “"The Simpsons"” and “"The Family Guy”," many networks are tapping into a new genre of cartoons; animation for adults.

In addition to FOX’'s “Simpson” success, many stations have struck gold. “"South Park,”" Comedy Central’'s infamous hit, shares the network with reruns of such short-lived animated series as “Undergrads” and “Gary and Mike.” Cartoon Network’'s aptly named “"Adult Swim" is a three-hour-long timeslot featuring the edgy animation of “"Futurama"” and “"The Oblongs.”" With such shows as "“Beavis and Butt-head”" and “"Daria”" under its belt, and a history for pushing the envelope, MTV has helped set the standard for adult animation and rolled out another winner this January, “"Clone High."”

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the dynamic duo behind the brilliance that is “"Clone High,"” landed a deal with a major studio straight out of college. Seniors, attempt to stifle the rage and injustice that is welling up in your throats, because their success was beneficial to us all. Their idea: "Clone High USA," a typical angst-ridden American high school.

The catch: All the students are teenage clone versions of historical figures, resurrected and cloned in the 1980s by the Evil Board of Shadowy Figures. Resulting is a bizarre premise that lays the groundwork for a comedy gem.

The cartoon’s humor plays on two levels. The show parodies teen dramas like “"Dawson's Creek”" by over-exaggerating high school life. Will Abe overcome his struggle with sleep deprivation? How can Joan ever express her true feelings for Abe?

But these characters aren’'t just your average, angst-ridden high school students. The show focuses on the interactions of its five main characters; gangly and sincere Abe, Goth girl Joan, football captain and ladies man JFK, popular, yet snobbish Cleopatra and party animal Gandhi.

With such a cast, historical humor cannot be averted. When Gandhi is diagnosed with Attention Defecit Disorder and Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder, “its hyperactive cousin,” Paul Revere gallops around the school spreading the news. JFK and Abe go head to head for student body president.

In one short clip, Genghis Khan appears wearing a "Screw Tibet" T-shirt. Joan, or “Miss of Arc” as her teacher calls her, hears religious voices, which end up being broadcast from a Christian radio station and received through her retainer. This is the ultimate payoff for high school history classes. The puns are endless…and you’ll get them if you paid attention in class. While the show has many fans rolling with laughter and running to their encyclopedias to see what exactly George Washington Carver had to do with a peanut, its reception hasn'’t been so warm everywhere. The series has caused an uproar in India, where people are not pleased with the portrayal of the leader of their independence movement, Mohandas Gandhi. His clone is depicted as a hyperactive partygoer, who answers to the nickname “G-Man.” MTV has issued an apology, however they have no intentions to air the show outside of the United States and do not plan to alter its content.

With humor ranging from crass to sophistication, this show can make just about anyone laugh. Let’s face it, we’re a cartoon-watching generation yet again.

So next time you are ready to relive the Saturday morning experience, put on your pajamas, grab a bowl of cereal and curl up to watch “"Clone High USA"” Mondays at 9:30 p.m. MTV has created a new contender in the battle of adult animation. One with quite a past.

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