Clerks: The Animated Series
After approximately a year of sporadic promotion and delays, Clerks: The Animated Series, based (somewhat loosely) on Kevin Smith's low-budget indie film classic, finally made it to Disney-owned television network ABC in the late spring of 2000. The first episode to air (5/31/2000) is actually the fourth episode in the series (Was this intentional as a super-hidden Star Wars reference? You decide!); the second episode to air (6/7/2000) actually was the second in the series, but it failed to make any sense for reasons that will become apparent when I discuss that episode.
Due to some potential sponsors being shaken by the 'edgy' content of the show (admittedly, Clerks was not a kids' show, but it was no worse than, say, The Simpsons or King of the Hill, as well as fairly poor ratings, the remaining four episodes were never showed. Some time after this, View Askew and Miramax released "Clerks Uncensored!," a two-disc DVD set containing all six episodes and a nice amount of bonus material, including a commentary by Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, and the voice actors, but that commentary can largely be summed up as "THE NETWORK fucked us. THE NETWORK is a bunch of douchebags and we hate THE NETWORK."
Bitter commentary aside, the DVD set still proves quite amusing; despite the low ratings, the series (or at least as much of it as they made) was actually quite funny. It wasn't much like the movie at all, but it did have the voices of many of the actors from the movie, and was amusing in its own way.
The first episode, called, "The Pilot" or "Leonardo Leonardo Returns and Dante Has an Important Decision to Make," introduces Leonardo Leonardo (voiced by Alec Baldwin), evil millionaire and founder of the town of Leonardo, NJ where the show takes place. Leonardo Leonardo introduces a new, oversized convenience store, "Quicker Stop," as competition to the "Quick Stop" where Dante is employed. One of the few moments reminiscent of the movie can be seen early in this episode, during a brief "barrage of stupid questions." This, of course, is preceded by some explosions and fire to remind you that this is not the movie.
The second episode, "The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal Are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives," finds Dante and Randal, well, locked in a freezer. Randal points out that "If this was a sitcom, we'd flash back to all our old episodes" and this is followed by several flashbacks to the first and only episode to come before it, plus a few to THIS episode, within itself; it also flashes back to the day Dante and Randal met, the night Dante lost his virginity, a few of the times Caitlin cheated on him, and other parts of their lives. This episode really earns the "This television program is not endorsed by any celebrities" disclaimer that starts each episode by taking a few quick shots at Jerry Seinfeld, Gwynneth Paltrow, Martin Scorcese, Audrey Hepburn, Matt Damon, and Ted Danson.
"Leonardo Is Caught in the Grip of an Outbreak of Randal's Imagination and Patrick Swayze May or May Not Work in the New Pet Store" is the third episode, in which Leonardo Leonardo eats a rancid burrito and gets food poisoning. He doesn't realize there was anything wrong with the burrito, so he blames his sickness on being bitten by a monkey in a pet store in the same strip as Quick Stop and RST Video, where Patrick Swayze is being yelled at by the owner to do some menial task, but when asked about this by Dante and Randal, he claims to be filming a movie there. Meanwhile, the town of Leonardo is quarantined, the monkey goes missing, and silliness ensues.
Episode 4, "A Dissertation on the American Justice System by People Who Have Never Been Inside a Courtroom, Let Alone Know Anything About the Law, But Have Seen Way Too Many Legal Thrillers," has Jay slip in some spilled soda and fall down in the Quick Stop. Randal talks him into suing the store for ten million dollars, then harasses a lawyer from Manhattan until he agrees to take the case. This episode includes a variety of NBA stars serving as the jury, including Charles Barkley, who is one of the few celebrities who actually does his own voice and is something of a running joke in the series, appearing in all of these episodes except the sixth. The episode concludes with multiple endings and a silly, seizure-inducing anime parody.
The fifth episode has the longest name of all of them: "Dante and Randal and Jay and Silent Bob and a Bunch of New Characters and Lando Take Part in a Whole Bunch of Movie Parodies Including but Not Exclusive to The Bad News Bears, The Last Starfighter, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Plus a High School Reunion." It's hard to write about these episodes when the titles just about say it all. Dante and Randal attend their high school reunion; Dante runs into Leonardo Leonardo, who's there for the class that graduated ten or twenty years before theirs, and Randal runs into his old favorite video game, Pharoah. Dante ends up coaching a Little League baseball team, and the star player is Jay, who is allowed to play on a minor technicality: he never finished the fourth grade.
"The Last Episode Ever" is the sixth and (obviously) final episode, and is arguably the silliest of them all, opening with a comic book convention where Dante and Randal take questions from the audience (of about 3 people) about the show and learn that no one likes it. I guess convention-goers just have no sense of humor. The episode goes on to depart from the usual Star Wars references, turning to The Matrix instead, and ending with a takeoff on a classic Warner Bros. cartoon.
Low ratings and cancellations or not, Clerks: The Animated Series was simply brilliant, and is fully deserving of a cable revival, possibly on HBO or another channel that has some balls. The crew had some great ideas for future episodes, which are mentioned in the commentary; in one of their plot ideas, Randal buys the car from Knight Rider; the car then becomes jealous of Dante and Randal's friendship, so it kidnaps Dante and takes over his job at the Quick Stop...and none of the customers notice anything is wrong. Even if no more episodes ever get made, though, give this series a day in court. You won't regret it.