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Tom Goes To The Mayor
The Complete Series

review by Zach B.

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 348 minutes

Starring: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Retail Price: $34.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Creators Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (and special guests), That's Amazing! How Do They Make That Show?, The Night Of 1000 Stars: Celebrity Sessions, A Look Behind, Original Shorts, Deleted Scenes, Tiny Tune Town: Music From The Show, Bob Zone: A Tribute To Bob Odenkirk, Boiling Point! Beuind The Scenes, Season Two, Promos, An Artist's Touch: Artwork From The Show

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Stereo, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Three-Disc Set

Released: April 3rd, 2007

 

If you are at all familiar with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block, then you certainly know that its fans sure are passionate. (If you have any doubts though, go to their website or even just read most of the bumpers before and after commercial breaks.) To Adult Swim's credit, especially now that they have carved out a niche in the past few years, they are not afraid to experiment when it comes to what they put on the air. For all your "Futurama"s and "Family Guy"s that helped brand Adult Swim and give new life to beloved adult-friendly cartoons, you also have far-out programming that may not even be considered cartoons (or make sense). Helping to push the block in that direction was "Tom Goes To The Mayor," and boy, does it have its fans and detractors.

Based on shorts that appeared on the website of its creators - comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim - "Tom Goes To The Mayor" debuted on Adult Swim in November 2004, and ended its run in the fall 2006. The plot of each episode (which usually run around 12 minutes) is as follows: Tom Peters (Heidecker) is a semi-apathetic man who goes to see the mayor of Jefferton (Wareheim), often pitching ideas in how to improve the town. The Mayor usually latches onto to what Tom wants to do, but for some reason or another - either through sheer randomness or sheer stupidity - the Mayor changes Tom's ideas, and chaos erupts. What you ultimately get is an exercise in the ludicrous and absurd, complete with a celebrity cameo.

I can understand the show being a frustrating experience for some. I'm all for insane humor that seemingly comes out of nowhere (or perhaps in most cases for Adult Swim shows, probably a bong) - but it took me a few episodes to really get used to the show's somewhat deadpan style and latch onto how the episodes gel (episodes often work pretty well, but at times the series can be hit or miss). I'm sure people prefer a more straightforward viewing experience, and if that's you, this show isn't for you. Absurdity, wacky ideas and out-of-nowhere plot points are king here. It all may seem predictable - The Mayor screwing up Tom's ideas and in turn, Jefferton - but it's all very different each week. Sure, some of the joy comes out of the foil and knowing what these characters are like personally and will probably do, but the show is more about how bizarre things will get. You may have laughed in the 90s at Michelle Tanner's catchphrases or Steve Urkel's snorting whenever they entered a scene and you knew the same predictable and empty joke, but in "Tom Goes To The Mayor" you only know that the outcome will mean trouble. (Did I really just compare and contrast corny ABC sitcoms to an Adult Swim program...?)

Simply put, you either have a flavoring for Tim and Eric's style of humor, or you don't: shows don't get much more gleefully weirder than this. Plotlines include a summer camp based around tobacco smoking and fatty foods, reproducing macaroni art, hobos and last but not least, what could quite possibly be the greatest calculator ever. At the same time though, it is tempting to read into a lot of the episodes as social commentary. The most obvious being how your government can work: to possibly have good intentions, but getting bogged down in ego and bureaucratic non-sense, as well as not listening to its citizens - thus causing more problems. There are also episodes covering recent fads like social networking websites, as well as relevant issues like the influences of corporate sponsorship. I don't know, though. Perhaps Tim and Eric were just having a good time and making this series. Seriously, does the average Adult Swim viewer really want to reflect on the world at large?

One of the show's greatest and most memorable assets is that every episode has a special guest star - quite often famed comedians, but you have your noted thespians popping up to (such as Bob Balaban and Robert Loggia). The guest stars often get to play some strange characters, and for me at least, adds a lot of fun to the show. It was certainly a bit more fun when the series was on the air, since you didn't know who was going to pop up the next week, and not knowing what Tim and Eric would have them doing (Jeff Goldblum as a pet store owner? Genius!).

Another interesting aspect to "Tom Goes To The Mayor" is how it is stylized, which might be a turn-off to many. It's not exactly fully animated: photos of the actors in a variety of poses help tell the story, but they appear in the scheme of blue-and-white, resembling mimeographs. Adding to the show's randomness is that it is sometimes flavored with surreal live-action bits, usually of television shows that The Mayor is watching (and quite often, the "live" actors are played by Tim and Eric in some crazed costumes and make-up).

If you haven't realized it by now, "Tom Goes To The Mayor" is not for everyone - and other than Adult Swim, its only home probably would have been on the web where it originated. Personally, I enjoyed the series a lot, and I think Tim and Eric have created an off-the-cuff series with a trademark style that may be considered countercultural. I admire Tim and Eric for really delving into what they created and their characters (I think the style of the banter between the Tom and The Mayor is downright entertaining), and I admire Cartoon Network for putting on a show like this (then again, I'm sure its budget wasn't through the roof - and I'm sure they like gauging fan reaction for such programming).

Currently, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have another Adult Swim show, the live-action sketch series "Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job," which seems to have had a less polarizing response (Cartoon Network recently just ordered 30 more episodes of it, and also some of their live-action characters on "Tom" have made guest appearances on their new series). Still, for those of you who cherished "Tom Goes To The Mayor," the entire series is now out on DVD in a really superb package. And for those who loathed it, you can now buy copies of the DVD and burn it. Nonetheless, I think "Tom Goes To The Mayor" is a pretty original, and even innovative, series. If you're unfamiliar with it and are still intrigued by it after reading this review, then I highly recommend you sample the world of Jefferton and then come to your own conclusions (debating online about the show following your viewing is optional).

 

All the episodes are presented in 1.33:1 full screen, as they were originally presented on TV. Other than some noise, the episodes look quite nice. The details on the backgrounds and real life images look pretty sharp and bright, while the typical color scheme for the characters - blue and white - do pop out. The show's simple (and at times surreal) visual style is probably something you won't be using to show off your high end television, but given what it is, it all looks pretty great.

 

All the episodes also include English stereo tracks. Like the transfers, there's nothing that exactly stands out - but given the show's material, they're perfect for what they are: they sound crisp and are straightforward. Everything comes together well: the dialogue is clear, the sound effects have a little bounce to them and the music comes in perfectly. Fidelity is pretty high, too. Like the video, there are no complaints here. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish are included, plus English closed captions.

 

I was really impressed that show creators, directors, writers, voice artists and all around visionaries Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim recorded Audio Commentaries for EVERY episode of the series (and it seems they've done them all in a row, too). Depending on the episode, they are also joined by some guests, be it regular Bob Odenkirk, members of the crew or other guest stars. Based on the few commentaries I listened to, this is really strong stuff: Tim and Eric joke and deadpan, but they also are pretty serious about making the show - be it the "animation," working with voice actors (and how they got them to be on the series) and how they developed the series (on the first commentary the two liken their original script to a "boring three hour movie"). I'm sure you die-hard fans of the show will get a kick out of learning so many tiny details of specific episodes and the show in general, but these commentaries are also accessible to casual fans too. I certainly appreciate the effort the two put into the commentaries for the series, and the result is getting the best of both worlds: fun times and stories, but also a lot of insight. Phenomenal.

The rest of the supplements are divided across the three DVDs. The first disc features That's Amazing! How Do They Make That Show? lasts about twenty-one minutes that breaks down the show's unique production through montages and assorted bits of voice recording sections, music (with some appearances from Tenacious D and Sir-Mix-A-Lot), video editing and computer trickery. I was most fascinated by how the show's unique artwork is manipulated. This is a crazed and enjoyable hodge podge in how the show is brought to life.

The Night Of 1000 Stars: Celebrity Sessions is an eleven minute montage of celebrities who've made guest spots on the show. We see them recording lines and them being photographed/motion-captured and often the final product. Robert Loggia, David Cross, Tenacious D, Gary Busey, Dave Foley, Judd Hirsch, Michael Ian Black, Sarah Silverman, Bob Balaban, Garry Shandling and many, many more appear. Nicely done.

A Look Behind is another twelve minute look at the making of the show (which I think may have aired on Adult Swim) - it almost plays like outtakes for the previous two features with Tim and Eric goofing around, celebrities doing their voice work and uh, a typical day at the office - it seems like quite a trip to work for Tim and Eric. The featurette also has optional commentary with Tim and Eric, and their joined by Doug Lussenhop. It turns out Doug was originally an intern, who quickly rose to the ranks of editor, and was asked by Tim and Eric to randomly shoot them. And hence, this piece was born. The commentary is worth listening to if you can't get enough of Tim and Eric's antics, as they share even more wackiness as far as what it's like to work for them.

Finishing off the first disc are the original shorts: "Tom Goes To The Mayor" and "Tom Goes To The Mayor Returns," made in 2002 and 2003 respectively. I guess you could say these shorts are more like pilots (and are shorter than actual series episodes, running around 4 and 6 minutes each), and while some of the art is a bit crude (which is to be expected), it's obvious right from the start what Tim and Eric were going for as far as the show's style and tone, and how what they created here was pretty much kept for the actual series (I believe these originally appeared on their website). Too bad these shorts don't have optional commentary on them.

On Disc 2, you'll find Whoops? Deleted Scenes which is a collection of eight deleted sequences from the show. Naturally, the stuff here is really short, but amusing nonetheless.

Tiny Tune Town: Music From The Show is basically a jukebox (presented on the Funputer) where you can listen to songs featured in the series. Most excellent. There's also Here's The Scoop: Married News Outtakes is introduced by the show's creators, who then flub lines in full gaudy garb. Rounding out the disc's video-based extras is Bob Zone: A Tribute To Bob Odenkirk is a fun montage showcasing the well-known comedic talent doing various parts on the show - be it live action characters or in the recording booth. Fun stuff.

Disc 3 starts with Boiling Point! Behind The Scenes, Season Two. It is kind of a fly-on-the-wall mockumentary, where in the second season Tim's involvement with the show is non-existent and he seeks other career opportunities - and focuses on Eric's involvement with comedian Louie Anderson and actor Michael Cera. It's all pretty ingenious and goofy. I'd like to assume this was done for the DVD in mind (like pretty much everything else), and extras like this don't get more original.

Also on the third disc are six Adult Swim and Tom Goes To The Mayor promos: "Stuart Maesche," "Right Way To Rock," "Tom + Ghost," "Chop Suey 1," "Chop Suey 2" and "Sound Booth." Nice.

Finally, there's An Artist's Touch: Artwork From The Show which is an automated gallery of imagery from the series. I like how it's cheesily presented, as if you're watching some bad 1980s infomercial or cable access (then again, based on some of the other features here and Tim and Eric's latest Adult Swim series, it seems like they enjoy implementing such a style to present their material).

 

"Tom Goes To The Mayor" was one of Adult Swim's more polarizing shows - you either loved its quirky style and crazed, non-continuous plotlines... or you hated it. For me, I'm in the former camp - though it did take me a bit to get into the show. As far as a DVD set, this is pretty phenomenal. The episodes look and sound good, but there was also a tremendous amount of effort that was poured into the supplements - many of which balance the tricky line of being informative and hilarious. Anyone who can appreciate the absurd (as well as some of the greatest talents out there) will thoroughly enjoy this DVD set.