Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mission Hill (or Being Poor, Awesome, and In Your Twenties)

Adult life is so damn weird. Everything changes when you stop living with your parents to strike out on your own. Being 25, I have to say that this decade especially is proving to be quite trying in terms of getting my life in order, finding my career, building a family, leaving behind my childhood, etc. Few things properly capture the feelings one has for particular age groups, but Mission Hill conveyed early-to-mid twenties perfectly.


This early-millennium animated series follows the lives of brothers Andy and Kevin French, as well as their roommates and close friends. Andy is an aspiring cartoonist -- specializing in social satire -- and living in the city the series is named for while holding down a job at the local waterbed store. Constantly wrestling with the notion of being a corporate wage slave, Andy still can't seem to break the mold of his slacker attitude. But when things are going alright, who needs to change?

Damn right. Source!

The meat of the plot stems from younger brother Kevin moving in with Andy as a result of his parents moving from a small suburb to the "wild west" of direct mail marketing, Wyoming. The decision was made wholly by the French parents so that Kevin could finish out his senior year before heading to college at Yale (hopefully). Will Smith would say that Andy's life got flipped and turned upside down. Earlier that day, he could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Now he has to worry about his dorky younger brother ruining his fun.

They really couldn't be any more different. Source!

While dealing with bigger issues than familial relations, almost every episode begins with brotherly conflict and ends with resolution. Unlike most shows, this shtick is saved from getting boring and repetitive by being punctuated with an episode format that manages to cover multiple story lines and some even being mostly secondary character-centric. Overall, the story arc of Mission Hill effectively tells one long story about two brothers. To me, this is far more entertaining than if it were to be a series of seemingly random events.

Finding out that you've got some things in common is a great thing. Source!

The series also doesn't rely on any sort of gimmick for plot progression. Other than the occasional social commentary and jabs the characters take at the notion of animated series', the show is pretty straightforward in its agenda. Where a show like Family Guy relies mostly on flashbacks for laughs, Mission Hill is almost entirely keeping with a progressive timeline with very few exceptions. Even still, when there is a plot device that takes you out of the moment, it is done quite tastefully and is necessary to the story. I find it quite refreshing to live the lives of the characters with them as opposed to gathering together little bits and pieces as you go along.

A cartoon by a cartoon-cartoonist within a cartoon about a cartoon-cartoonist. Source!

Andy's life may have changed substantially by Kevin becoming a new roommate, but it certainly isn't the source of every problem. The both of them go through the series sharing similar problems at the opposite ends of their social spectrums. Where Kevin may struggle with SAT requirements for college, Andy's boss is arrested for tax evasion, leaving the Waterbed Emporium employees without work. It's around this time that Andy realizes play time is over and he needs to grow up a bit. You may have seen this video making the rounds on the internet lately. It is a very effective scene that shows the turning point in Andy's life where he begins to leave his old self behind. Well, sort of.

You never really grow out of dumb jokes, I guess. Source!

Unfortunately, the series was cancelled with only the single season having been created.  Lucky for the fans (and the cult following that was gained), Mission Hill did end on a pretty good note.  Andy ends up landing a job with his roommate Jim at a marketing firm, someplace where he finally gets to have a creative outlet.  Kevin gets a stellar recommendation to his choice college, Yale.  It's a real shame that Mission Hill didn't get to pan out and show each character's scenario play through.  There are a few animatics of un-aired episodes available for online viewing that give a little more insight to where their lives were headed, and it makes me wish they could have finished just a couple more.  Perhaps it is better that it burnt out quick instead of suffering a slow and painful death.  One thing is for sure, I could never live in a world without at least the one season of Mission Hill.  I'd rather eat Skunch the for the rest of my life.

Which, by the way, contains eight essential forms of marrow! Source!

Special thanks to the minds of Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein for crafting what they could of this masterpiece, and the masterminds at [adult swim] for rerunning Mission Hill every now and then.  What once was a show I would turn to when I was having money problems (thankfully not so much anymore) is now a show I can relate to for entirely different reasons and will always be one of my very favorites.  Give it a watch if you never have before.  After you have (or if you have already), let me know what you think!

In the end, it will always come down to brotherly love. Source!



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