From the Directors of The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and Last Man on Earth came a show so good that it took a hunger strike in India to get it off the air. If you never saw it then you missed out on a chance to have a complete life. It was called Clone High.
Clone High was the creation of (now) wildly successful directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who have a joint wikipedia page and who have, in fair disclosure, responded to this author’s tweets) and sitcom genius Bill Lawrence. Those with distinctive listening skills will notice that many of the voice talents in the MTV cartoon series would later show up in the later, better-known (but not better) productions of the creators.
The premise of the show is conveyed succinctly in the opening theme song, which is one of the best in all of cartoon history. You see:
Way way back in the 1980’s
Secret government employees
Dug up famous guys and ladies
And made amusing genetic copies
Now the clones are sexy teens now
They’re gonna make it if they try
Loving, learning, sharing, judging a time to laugh and shiver
Interested? I know I am. Among the cast was Abe Lincoln (voiced by Will Forte of Last Man on Earth fame) playing the main protagonist as the typical awkward, do-gooder prone to dramatic speechifying (at which he tended to be fairly awful).
He was in love with Cleopatra, the popular girl (voiced by Christa Miller who would later play the wife of Dr. Cox on Bill Lawrence’s amazingly amazing Scrubs) but he also had a best friend in Joan of Arc (Nicole Sullivan, who played an annoying coke addict and perpetual patient on Scrubs) who played the role of the overlooked love interest out of every high school drama ever. Party-animal Ghandi and jock/womanizer JFK rounded out the main cast but dozens of other historical figures filled the school, which was overseen by Principal/Genetic Manipulator Scudward, a secretive board of shadowy government figures, and a robot butler (Mr. Butlertron) who wore cardigans, called everyone “Wesley”, and was the heart and soul of the show.
The show was made to parody high school dramas with the love triangles and heavy-handed messaging. Every single episode of Clone High’s tragically short run was a “very special episode.” In one memorable episode Abe becomes addicted to smoking raisins and leads a hippie revolt against consumerism. Honestly I have no idea what the moral of that episode was supposed to be. Raisins are bad? (Phil Lord and Chris Miller returned to that in Last Man on Earth and told this author that raisins are for smoking, not eating). Sure. Its a great rock opera hot mess. Other important lessons include the importance of rioting “at a college level” and the importance of sleep “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” “You’ll die if you don’t sleep!” Also one character is killed by litter.
The humor is familiar to those who have seen Scrubs, Cougar Town, or The Lego Movie. Plenty of puns and layered jokes that require the viewer to pay attention. Many of these jokes rely on the viewer understanding the history of the clones, but just as many are also straight-up absurdism (such as Mandy Moore playing a homeless person, but also herself, who is there to teach the clones the true meaning of “Snow Flake Day”. Which involves spices.) Half of the fun comes from picking up on the little sight gags and historical references thrown in, and it is a show that rewards re-viewing. Though much of it is based on mocking 90s TV shows, there is still plenty that holds up due to that absurdity. Mr. Butlertron fighting a scantron robot to the death doesn’t require much context to be hilarious. Nor does JFK’s ridiculous accent.
The show’s run was cut short in a cliff-hanger episode at the Winter Prom (one of the many, many proms that Clone High apparently had), when all of the clones are frozen and John Stamos sacrifices himself to save them all even though Scudward had tried to kill him in order to become Prom King. A second season was never made and so we never find out what happened to the clones or what Cleo’s boobs looked like without floating Joan of Arc heads covering them up.
You can find all of the episodes on YouTube, but the quality varies pretty dramatically. I’d highly recommend actually purchasing them. With money even.