December 5, 2023

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‘Fairview’ Is Stephen Colbert’s Tasteless Mockery of Small-Town America

Comedy Central

Comedy Central

For the past 25 years, South Park has been a reliable juggernaut for Comedy Central, which has naturally sought to use it as a launching pad for additional raunchy R-rated series in order to create a Wednesday night primetime comedy programming block. Those efforts have largely been in vain, but that hasn’t stopped the network from trying, and for its umpteenth stab at devising a follow-up to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s hit, they’ve struck upon Fairview, a half-hour sitcom from creator R.J. Fried and executive producer Stephen Colbert (of Tooning Out the News) that’s part of Comedy Central’s renewed commitment to irreverent adult-skewing animation—an outlook that’s also resulting in the upcoming reboot of Beavis and Butthead. As with its lead-in, it’s a show that’s crude in both form and content. Unfortunately, at least on the basis of its pilot (Feb. 9), it’s about as clever as a trip to the bathroom.

‘South Park’ Takes on Anti-Maskers, Bitcoin, and Matt Damon in Wild Season 25 Premiere

Speaking of which, Fairview is obsessed with talking about bowel movements, bodily fluids and sexual behavior, all of it ostensibly aimed at earning it some edgy credibility. One of this season premiere’s primary narrative threads is that video game-loving teenager Beef has chosen to receive the Moderna vaccine behind his parents’ back—something that bothers his director of public works and high school football coach dad Todd, and outright incenses his mom Holly, a loudmouth redneck nightmare who can’t believe her son would do something so responsible (what’s next, she wonders… washing your hands?). When Beef reveals that he took this course of action to protect his immunocompromised non-binary buddy Mack, Holly freaks out and makes Beef spend time with reckless role model Breckman, the gray-haired owner of Fairview’s funeral home, who dances with joy at the sight of a corpse—because, you know, it’ll earn him more money—and whose mentorship with Beef involves teaching him to be a “total fucking idiot asshole” by pooping on random strangers.

Saying that this storyline isn’t funny is akin to stating that the sky isn’t green, but somehow, it’s not even the most awful aspect of Fairview’s introductory episode. The show’s primary protagonist is Kelly Sampson, a former party girl who’s now the town’s mayor, and who finds herself in a potentially catastrophic situation when her Director of Finance Glen Michaels announces that he’s going to throw an epic Super Bowl party featuring vodka luges (that contain every variety of hepatitis!) and a special appearance by Footbot (who’s a football robot, as his name implies). Their coworkers Todd and Chelsea are excited to attend this shindig, but Kelly has her concerns, what with Fairview’s skyrocketing COVID-19 cases. Thus, she suggests that everyone who goes to Glen’s bash be vaxxed or have a negative PCR test within 24 hours of the game, to which Glen replies, “That is such an old way of thinking. We live in COVID times, parties kill people.”

This is supposedly amusing because Fairview is a town of dumb people who don’t care about personal or public safety, and revel in their awful idiocy. That’s the sole joke in Fairview, and it’s replayed with a particularly off-putting brand of brash, cheery screechiness, with Glen as the biggest culprit, his every line yelled for maximum over-the-top emphasis. Breckman, meanwhile, is the crazy uncouth codger who doubles and triples down on his impoliteness, as when he repeatedly strives—in a crowded restaurant—to normalize calling Beef his “boyfriend” because they’re both “boys” and “friends.” Rounding out the show’s collection of male morons is Jake, a BBQ master who Kelly is sleeping with, against her better judgement. Jake is not very bright but good at sex, and, well, that’s about all we know about him so far, which says a lot about the creativity on display.

Fairview’s writing is pretty abysmal, lowlighted by Breckman trying to convince Beef to join him at the ice cream parlor because “maybe the scooper will let you squat a hot one on his pointy hat.” Its animation is similarly dreary, with character designs that feature no hands, legs or feet; the bottom of each figure is instead a rounded ball, as if everyone were an anthropomorphic kids’ punching bag. Matched by a bright color palette, that style makes the entire endeavor resemble a cross between an online viral-video cartoon and Higglytown Heroes, and the fact that Fried doesn’t provide a second of visual flair—the closest he comes is a tepid Super Bowl party music-video sequence—speaks to the tossed-off nature of these proceedings.

As with South Park, Fairview is intent on mining of-the-moment topical material for its goofy narratives. The problem is, its debut suggests it doesn’t have a perspective on the world at large aside from, “Morons are moronic but also sweet and endearing!” Worse, its outlook isn’t even consistent—if, for example, Beef and Mack are worried about the latter becoming infected with the virus, why do they spend all of their time together at the “COVID pile?” Such clumsiness is in keeping with the show’s consuming dismalness, which extends to the late appearance of Footbot, who’s a professional athlete suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and, therefore, can’t remember what he’s doing or where he’s going, not to mention resents everyone for treating him like a brain-damaged individual in need of constant monitoring and care.

It’s possible that Fairview will improve as it more fully develops its characters and, consequently, can play them off each other in bizarre and outlandish ways. More likely, though, is that it’ll suffer a cancellation death even faster than the unvaxxed citizens of its fictional hamlet.

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