"Home Movies - Farewell And Thanks"
Greg Becker

So Home Movies is finished. Farewell to a comic classic.

Home Movies has always reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes, in the sense that both understood that “grown up” children were often the best metaphors for our own lives. They represent us, but their age excuses their actions and points out that though we grow older we never lose our childish impulses or impatience. Childish actions are normal for the characters and yet every time we see similarities to ourselves it forces us to examine how mature (immature) we really are.

Home movies maintained a faithful belief that real life could provide comedy in and of itself without perfectly written one-liners, tight dialogues, or gimmicks. The first time I watched Home Movies (Bad Influences) I was drawn in primarily by the dialogue and presentation (which I later found out was due mostly to its ‘retro-scripting’ writing process) both of which were decidedly atypical for a TV show and more reminiscent of a talk with a good friend. The dialogue never felt whitewashed and was littered with awkward pauses, stutters, and odd tangents. Jokes often fell flat or were poorly delivered yet this too contributed to the magic of the show. This made watching an episode for a third or fourth time equally enjoyable with the ability to catch the jokes that didn’t hit the first time around.

TV shows, and cartoons in particular, too often take the opposite approach by pandering to the viewer. Jokes are emphasized and the producers take care to let us know what is supposed to be funny, either through a pause in the script, a cut, or a laugh track (the lowest of the low). No interaction or imagination is required and it makes for decent, albeit easy and cheap, humor. While these shows can be laugh out loud funny they can also be downright bad when the jokes start to fall flat. When you're not laughing there's little to lure you back into the show. Either way quick shot one-liners are reduced to the lower forms of humor: irony, absurdity, or crudeness. Home Movies never seemed to fit into that dynamic (except for the failed attempts to 'spice' the show with lewdness or cursing)

Like Calvin and Hobbes, Home movies forced the viewer to accept its terms. For the most part only McGuirk served up the “in-your-face” easy laughs. The rest of the show survived on a subtle interaction that was a mix of charm, beauty, and realism. Character traits were never sacrificed for the sake of a plotline and in fact the plot was often forced to adjust to the characters. As in real life there was never an urgent need to make everything fit together, or to wrap up all the loose ends at the end of the half hour. Problems that can be handled are, and for those that can’t? Well there is always a tomorrow or a next episode.

This is why fans of Home movies are particularly saddened by the loss. They have already accepted the show’s insistence that the answer to some questions and the solution to some problems will be handled in the future. Just like in real life. Home movies left us in typical fashion, with an “open book” ending symbolizing a new period in the character’s existence. These endings, as rare as they may be, sting at first as the nostalgia can’t help but overcome you (note the flash showing of all the past movies). You’re also hit by an awareness that going forward the character’s will no longer be around to hold your hand in discovering the answers to the unsolved questions and problems. Those future answers are now wide open and subject only to our imaginations.

This ending almost identically paralleled the final strip of Calvin and Hobbes, which ran on new years day and showed the two standing before a freshly fallen snow with sled in hand. Calvin noted how beautiful a freshly fallen snow looks, like a sheet of blank paper presenting endless opportunities. Though the departure of him from our everyday lives was sad it truly did remind us that it really is a magical world. Brandan has always seen the world through the eye of a camera lens, it has been his safety net and his ability to escape from reality when need be. The destruction of his camera gives way to a stage in his life where he will be forced to face his problems realistically and head on. It is his growth.

In both cases while we’re forced to say goodbye we can take solace in the fact that the artist has provided us with the perfect ending, a wide-open future for the characters. The artist has done the difficult part in introducing the characters, developing them, and encapsulating their antics forever. The artist would be betraying his work and his audience to finish the story or to let the characters grow past the stage of their life they have focused on. Who would want to see Calvin grow into a surly teenager, or face the realization that Hobbes isn’t ‘real’ in the strictest sense? Who would want to see Brandan, Jason, and Melissa grow up? Who would want to watch McGuirk teach his next group of kids, or for Jason and Melissa to have to face their ever so subtle childish attraction, or Brandan face life without a movie camera? The artist would be wrong to present us with anything but a wide-open and unconstrained ending, and as hard as it is to say, it might have been wrong to continue Home Movies seeing how the "adult content" theme running through adult swim was starting to rub off. When the show has to hit low to get a laugh then the ideas are starting to dry up.

Home movies is finished but the future of the characters is passed onto us, the viewers. Their future is our future because in the end what made Home Movies so special, and so rare, was that the characters and the world they lived in was real, unscripted, and imperfect and just like ours. TV shows (or newspaper comics) offer something most art forms lack. The characters come into your house and tell you a story weekly, if not daily. You watch them interact in such a variety of ways, that character traits are allowed to come through subtly, without the sledge-hammer and nail method of defining characters loved by most movies or sitcoms. You also see them at their worst, shows that aren't particularly funny, points where the dialogue gets cloudy, the plot gets lost, and learn to even enjoy the bad parts. Like anything else you learn to love it for it's flaws: if it's perfect...it just ain't real.

Brandan, like Calvin, is a character that you cannot help but identify with for indeed, he is you. Home movies is a simple show that never prompts the over-analysis it is given and the comedians certainly don’t intend it. But enough of the character is left open to identify and imagine. Indeed we cannot help projecting ourselves onto Brandan or Jason or Melissa; it makes the show more real and more personal, you may fill in the undefined character traits and unsolved problems with your own. Or use them as you would any great art, to learn and grow and laugh and hopefully relax and appreciate something you didn't before the experience, or at the very least direct that appreciation towards how rare such a genuine show is.