Television, as you may have surmised from the title of this column, is not the most intellectual of mediums. There’s nothing stopping it from being so; but it’s been the outlet of so much stupid crap for so long that stupid crap is pretty much its forte. When you think about it in those terms, TV does stupid amazingly well.
The stupidest show over which I am currently obsessed is G4’s “Code Monkeys.” It comes to us from animator Adam de la Peña, who previously polluted (in a good way) the airwaves of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim with the ethnic superhero parody “MinoriTeam.” Looking over Adam’s résumé—which includes such delights as “The Man Show,” “Crank Yankers,” “I’m With Busey” and (I’m not making this up) Bratz: The Movie—you can tell the guy’s not plagued by highbrow concerns.
“Code Monkeys” sets itself apart from other animated shows with its junky, pixelated art style. Set in the early ’80s, the show concentrates on the wacky office hijinks of a cheap video game publishing company during the dawn of the home computer era. The Super Mario Bros. art style reflects the 8-bit graphics of the day and sets the show’s irreverent, self-referential tone.
Overworked, underpaid video game programmers Jerry (voiced by Matt Mariska) and Dave (voiced by de la Peña) are our guides. Following the well-established rules of comedy, Jerry is the uptight straight guy while Dave is the rude, foul-mouthed slacker (who has already turned his computer into a bong). The company Dave and Jerry work for has just been sold to a blustery Texan who knows nothing about computers, leading to plenty of conflicts, pranks and general misunderstandings.
The humor, let’s be honest here, is like Oklahoma oil—pure crude. Endless toilet humor, gay jokes and ethnic slurs are the trade of the day. But de la Peña and crew dish them up with such rapid-fire glee it’s hard not to play along.
The animation style may be off putting to some viewers. Placed as it is on the video game channel G4, however, I suspect most viewers are in on the joke. I for one, find the series’ nonstop video game references the best source of humor. A tour through the basement of the company might, for example, turn into a sequence from Super Mario Bros. An urban brawl might look like the top-down arcade shooter Commando. An establishing shot of an ominous prison might evoke (quite intentionally) the opening credits to Castlevania. Guest voices include guys like Apple founder Steve Wozniak, upping the nerd factor even more.
Sure, there are plenty of viewers who will be offended by the wiener jokes, and even more who will walk away with headaches from the blocky imagery. But basically, if you spent the bulk of your childhood playing Atari 2600 or NES, you’ll get it. And probably hit the reset button for more.