Yawn. Another reality show on MTV featuring some barely remembered D-list celebrity mugging for cameras, performing patently scripted simulations of real life and trying desperately to make us forget his or her last embarrassing appearance on the pages of TMZ.com? Wake me when they start showing music videos again. ... But wait. There’s something subtly different about MTV’s newest “celebreality” show. Perhaps it’s the lighting. Perhaps it’s the camera technique. Perhaps it’s the fact that the star is a monkey in a helmet.
“Warren the Ape” is a spot-on parody of everything MTV stands for these days—a welcome throwback to the early ’90s era of “Ren & Stimpy,” “Beavis and Butt-head,” “Liquid Television” and other groundbreaking, establishment-eschewing programs. “Warren the Ape” is a spin-off of Sean S. Baker, Spencer Chinoy and Dan Milano’s cult series “Greg the Bunny”—which gained popularity as a series of IFC shorts and then became a short-lived FOX network sitcom. “Greg the Bunny” took viewers behind the scenes of a popular kid’s show, introducing us to the people and puppets who worked there—most of whom were not exactly family-friendly. Among the more R-rated of those characters was Warren “The Ape” DeMontague, a condescending, intellectual-minded, simian stage actor who clearly loathed his second banana status.
“Warren the Ape” picks up several years after the unceremonious cancellation of “Greg the Bunny.” In the intervening time, poor dignified asshole Warren has had to keep his career afloat with a series of seedy exploitation films, skin flicks and low-rent theatrical productions. But the thespian has found a way to transform his spiraling drug, alcohol and sex addiction into a cash cow: by going straight on an MTV reality show!
Guided by no less than Dr. Drew, Warren tries (rather disingenuously, it must be noted) to clean up his life in front of the cameras. But the fuzzy actor’s venal, selfish tendencies find him—more often than not—making some very poor life decisions. Framing a rival puppet with a sex tape? Performing community service by taking a middle school class on a field trip to a dog fight? That’s more Warren’s style.
The show is a timely, riotous sendup of reality shows in general and of self-centered, overprivileged, poorly behaved actors in specific. The pop cultural references run deep here. “Is it true you got arrested for smoking crack with Fozzy Bear?” asks a young kid of our star. “Don’t believe everything you read on Perez Hilton,” responds Warren. It’s nice to know somebody at MTV has got a sense of humor about this kind of stuff. While “Warren the Ape” doesn’t make up for six seasons’ worth of “The Hills,” it’s a damn good start.