The story of Home Movies begins in February of 1999. UPN, needing a companion show for it’s mildly successful “Dilbert”, went to Soup2Nuts productions to create a new show. The concept was originally about a single mother from the viewpoint of her 8-year old son. The show would be aimed at a female audience. The concept evolved from there.
Comedian/Musician Brendon Small led the project; he wrote the episodes, acted as the main character (along with side character Dwayne, Brendon’s musician for his movies and angst-ridden teenager), and did all the music for the show. Loren Bouchard co-created with Small and directed. Bill Braudis also worked as a writer on the show and would voice random characters. H. Jon Benjamin, familiar with Soup2Nuts for his work on the successful “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist”, was put into the project to do two voices: fan favorites Jason Penopolis and Coach Jon McGuirk. Paula Poundstone, also familiar with Soup2Nuts for her work on “Science Court”, took the role of Paula Small, Brendon’s slightly alcoholic struggling single mother. The show needed one more character; a female friend of Brendon’s, but the producers were having a hard time finding the right actress. Brendon Small (the actor) still needed to practice, so Executive Producer Melissa Bardin Galsky stepped in. Galsky, however, worked great with Small, so the role of Melissa Robbins was given to her. “Guest Star” Jonathan Katz, who starred in “Dr. Katz” with Jon Benjamin, was given the role as Melissa’s real estate agent father, Erik. Alas, Home Movies was ready to begin.
What separates Home Movies from most shows is its unique writing style, known as Retroscripting. In the original “UPN 5”, the actors were given an outline of a scene and improvised the rest. After that, there was both a scripted version and an improvised version, and the best of both worlds are used.
On Monday, April 26th, at 8:30 PM, the pilot episode “Get Away From My Mom” was shown on UPN. Because of the success of The Simpsons, most networks expect animated shows to bring in 7.0 ratings almost immediately. Home Movies brought in a 3.0 rating in its first episode…not bad, but then again, not that good. “The UPN 5” played on UPN over the next few weeks, receiving similar ratings. Despite developing a small cult following in a mere 5 episodes, Home Movies was cancelled after “We’ll Always Have Tuesday/Yoko”. The reason the network gave? Not enough male viewers. Bastards.
For a while, this is where the story ended for Home Movies. However, in February 2001, discussions began between Soup2Nuts and Cartoon Network for the original 5 episodes along with 8 new episodes to finish out a series.
In February 2000, Cartoon Network began discussing the possible acquisition of the “UPN 5” as well as 8 new episodes. As the story goes, Mike Lazzo, Executive at Cartoon Network, looked at some episodes of Home Movies in order to decide whether or not to buy it. By episode 2, he shouted, “Buy it!”
Home Movies became the leading show for Cartoon Network’s new experiment, “Adult Swim”. Adult Swim was a special weekly block dedicated to “cartoons for adults”. Home Movies premiered on September 2nd, 2001, at 10:00 PM with the (considered by most HM fans to be classic) episode “Director’s Cut”. Reactions by fans were…mixed, at first. But gradually, the show became more and more popular, and the 8 new episodes all played out to good ratings. Classics from this era include “Director’s Cut” “Mortgages and Marbles”, and “Law and Boarder”. The show also took a risk and ended in a cliffhanger, “Brendon’s Choice”, which wouldn’t have been resolved if the show was not reviewed. Luckily, the show was renewed for a second season relatively quickly.
The second season of Home Movies began on January 6th, 2002, with strangely voiced comedian Emo Philips renewing his role as Shannon, the school bully in “Politics”. The second season brought changes to Home Movies: most obviously, a switch from cheap Squigglevision to probably cheaper Flash animation, as well as a decrease in Retroscripting. However, the show also took on several new angles and characters in this season; Brendon started a relationship with his father Andrew and stepmother Linda; Brendon got a new obsession in Cynthia; we meet Paula’s boss, Arnold Lindenson and we meet local school spoiled brat Fenton Mulley. The biggest additions to the show were “friends” Walter & Perry, whose role on the show became gradually bigger as well as weirder. Though season two is considered by some to be the weakest Home Movies season, this season was responsible for such great episodes as “The Party”, “Class Trip”, “Writer’s Block” and the controversial “History”.
After a brief break, the show returned for its third season on Adult Swim. The season seemed to mix in elements of both season 1 and season 2, and is (in my opinion) the strongest of the Home Movies seasons. August 4th, 2002 was the season 3 premiere of the classic episode “Shore Leave”. Though they were a couple of weaker episodes in this era, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”, “Four’s Company” and “Broken Dreams” come to mind, almost every other episode from this era is either classic or good.
In January 2003, with Adult Swim’s growing popularity and the acquisition of Futurama by Cartoon Network, Home Movies was given a nice timeslot at 11:30 PM Monday-Thursday following Futurama. The show ran through all the episodes once, and made it about halfway again before the show was replaced in that timeslot by acquisition “Family Guy”.
Home Movies will be taking a hiatus from April 20th until the fourth season
(which has been officially announced) begins in the fall of 2003. Because of
a dedicated fan base and word-of-mouth, the popularity of Home Movies continues
to grow by the day.