Jerry Beck reviews Oxygen's flagship show, X-Chromosome, and finds it is funny, entertaining and real...even if you aren't a woman!
The best animated show you can't see (well at least 50% of the country can't) is X-Chromosome, which airs on the Oxygen network.
Oxygen Media is the women's cable TV and Internet network founded by Geraldine Laybourne, Oprah Winfrey, and TV producers Marcey Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach.
Hey Monie introduces the first network animated series based on an African-American woman and her friends. © Oxygen Media. All rights reserved. A fresh form of portraiture, the Drawn from Life series communicates that the ordinary can be extraordinary. © Oxygen Media. All rights reserved.
X-Chromosome is an animated anthology series which features six rotating regular segments: Avenue Amy, Oxygen's answer to Sex In The City, chronicling the adventures of Amy Sohn, a real-life sex columnist constantly on the prowl for material; Bitchy Bitch, based on Roberta Gregory's alternative comic book; Corky Q's Chick Flicks, in which clay animator Corky Quackenbush lampoons movies primarily marketed to female audiences; Drawn From Life, Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's portraiture of real women's stories; Fat Girl which centers on Kate Bloom, a warm-hearted, funny, intelligent, fat woman living in ultra-thin Los Angeles; and Hey Monie, about the life of a single African-American professional in big city America.
There are also slots for one-shot productions -- like The Adventures Of Harry Follicle (by Chris Bonner and Sarah Bereczki) about a pubic hair that goes from body to body looking for a warm place to live.
Bitchy Bits, another successful series featured on Oxygen based on the award-winning comic-book series Naughty Bits by cartoonist Roberta Gregory. © Oxygen Media. All rights reserved. Avenue Amy, like the character, is intelligent, self-aware, analytical and a big hit on X-Chromosome. © Oxygen Media. All rights reserved.
The X-Chromosome shorts are very clever -- always teetering on the brink of bad taste, but earning solid laughs from outrageous situations derived from real life or zany fantasy. And though the show is based on and aimed at women, I've found (as a man) that the comedy herein is quite universal.
The range of animation styles works very well together -- from cel to clay, from Flash to pencil sketch. It has the air of an international festival, and yet totally accessible and entertaining. It's classy, without pandering to the base cartoon antics that some producers think adult animation must stoop to.
The real highlight of the series is Corky Q's Chick Flicks. Quackenbush is a favorite from his MAD TV sketches, and Spike & Mike Sick & Twisted Festivals, and he doesn't disappoint here with his movie spoofs. For example, Bitanic (a spoof of Titanic) adds an Ellen-type stand-up comic to the deck of the doomed ocean-liner. Young Rose finds her true self and true love -- and gives new meaning to the term "going down with the ship." Dirty River-Dancing (a spoof of Dirty Dancing) places the innocent Jennifer Grey character into the hands of river-dancing IRA terrorists. Other parodies in this series include Pretty Woman II: Runaway Hooker Bride and Castaway: A Woody Allen Film. Quackenbush has really improved over the years and this is his best work to date. The models, the sets, the animation and most importantly, the writing, is top notch.
It's a shame all this great work is only available on a cable channel not available in most cities, though clips from X-Chromosome animation can be seen on their Website -- and a few shorts have been entered in film festivals.
Anthology series of any type, live or animated, have always been a hard sell to the public. But MTV's Liquid Television begat Beavis and Butt-head and Aeon Flux, so while Oxygen is still fishing for a breakout signature show, I suspect they'll catch it on X-Chromosome.
Jerry Beck is an animation producer and cartoon historian who is simultaneously developing a show with MTV Animation and writing a book for Harry N. Abrams Publishers. He also has a cool Website at www.cartoonresearch.com.