Comedy Central gets freaky with its new animated series “Ugly Americans.” Like a lot of shows, “Ugly Americans” follows the crummy work environment and lousy personal life of one average American schmuck. In this case, our schmuck is luckless twentysomething social worker Mark Lilly (voiced by Matt Oberg). Mark works for the Department of Integration, a New York agency dedicated to providing job counseling to fresh immigrants. The twist here is that, in Mark’s world, these immigrants are just as likely to include vampires, zombies, aliens, werewolves and giant chicken people as they are to consist of your average Third World refugees.
While trying to help assorted extraterrestrials, monsters and Dominicans, easygoing Mark frequently crosses paths with Lt. Grimes (Larry Murphy), a gung-ho law-enforcement officer who’d rather lock up all the non-humans. Our protagonist is also stuck dealing with his boss Callie (Natasha Leggero), a demonic (literally, mind you) dominatrix with whom he’s having a secret office romance. Mark knows it’s a bad idea to be sleeping with his boss (especially when she threatens to drag his soul to hell), but he’s too much of a milquetoast to break it off. Back on the home front, Mark’s trying to figure out how to live with his new Craigslist roomie Randall (Kurt Metzger). Randall recently “went zombie” for what Mark describes as “all the wrong reasons.” (It involved a girl.) Now, instead of leaving his socks in the living room, Randall’s leaving rotting hunks of his face.
Despite its twisted concept, “Ugly Americans” is a surprisingly straightforward sitcom, filled with your usual collection of work-related woes and dating problems—though, admittedly, it boasts a slightly more unusual collection of sidekicks than the average prime time comedy. Look past the talking squids and out-of-work robots, though, and you’ll spot a rather sincere call for diversity and tolerance. A great deal of the show’s humor comes from the utter nonchalance Mark uses to deal with his bizarre clientele. After all, work is work—even if your office mate is a drunken wizard.
The show’s detail-heavy art style falls somewhere between the freaky deaky comic book work of Charles Burns and the obsessive doodles of Adult Swim’s “Superjail!” Series creator Devin Clark has worked for years as an independent animator, producing commercial bumpers and network IDs for everyone from TCM Underground to Nicktoons. Series developer and executive producer David M. Stern has a solid background in TV, having written for “The Wonder Years” for three seasons and served as a producer on “The Simpsons” for four seasons. Their partnership proves to be a solid one, creating a series that feels fully formed and ready to go right from the pilot.
With its unique concept, clean art style and snappy writing (“Never make a decision with a hard-on and a fifth of Tequila,” advises Mark), “Ugly Americans” has got what it takes to stand out from cable TV’s cartoony crowd.