The story of Home Movies begins in February of 1999. UPN was sure
it had a hit in bringing “Dilbert”, the office satire
cartoon strip, to a TV show. As part of the event, they decided a
companion show would help. Looking for a family show, they headed
to Soup2Nuts. Loren Bouchard invisioned an idea of an improvised character
show, originally focusing on a single mother from the viewpoint of
her 8-year old son.
Bouchard gradually got the crew of the show on-board. Soup2Nuts mainstays
H. Jon Benjamin (best known as Ben from "Dr. Katz") and
comedian Paula Poundstone were brought on early. After seeing comedian
Brendon Small's act, Bouchard got him on-board (and Small soon became
very much at the center of the show). Most interesting is the character
of Melissa. The idea for a young female character had already existed,
and while a situable voice actress was being found, Creative Consultant
Melissa Bardin Galsky was used in some early sessions. Her chemistry
was Small and Benjamin was good enough that she ended up with the
Home Movies uses Retroscripting, basically another term for improvisation.
Benjamin and Small went into the booth having only met each other
a day before, and having only a vague idea of who their characters
were. They began improving dialogue, slowly developing an idea for
a scene and their own character personalities along the way. This
dialogue was then trimmed and reused as to turn the improv into a
coherent scene. The show gradually got more scripted as it went from
season to season, but even in season 4 much of the show remained done
in this fashion.
The pilot episode, "Get Away From My Mom", aired on Monday,
April 26th, 1999, to a lukewarm at best audience. "Dilbert"
didn't turn out to be the hit it was anticipated, and by episode 5,
UPN found little reason to renew the show. Amusingly, UPN's official
cancellation reason was a lack of male viewers.
For most shows, this is where the story would end. However...
In 2001, Cartoon Network was undergoing an experiment. Trying to
bring in adult viewers, the station created a section of shows specifically
intended for adults. "Adult Swim" would be the name. Executive
Khaki Jones had caught the show's short-lived UPN's existance, and
was a huge fan. Jones and AS executive Mike Lazzo would give the show
another chance, ordering 8 episodes to finish out the first season.
The Adult Swim/Home Movies premiere was on September 2nd, 2001, at
10:00 PM with the episode “Director’s Cut”.
In it's early days, Adult Swim wasn't exactly a ratings juggernaut.
However it managed to find enough of an audience to justify its own
existence, and HM was at the top of that audience. A second season
was ordered fairly quickly.
Beginning January 6th, 2002, Home Movies would have its second season.
In many ways the season differed from the first; Squigglevision was
dropped in favor of Flash animation, new character arcs were attempted,
and some new characters showed up. The ratings were, once again, not
very high but enough to justify a third season. August 4th, 2002 premiered
“Shore Leave”, the third season's first episode. Oddly
enough, a jump of time took place from the second last season 3 episode
"Stow-A-Way" and the season 3 finale, "Coffins and
Cradles". Nonetheless, the show would be picked up again for
a fourth (and ultimately final) season.
The fourth season were originally scheduled to premiere in November
2003; however, a slump of low ratings inspired Adult Swim to push
back the date of the new episodes to January. To fufill a contract,
Adult Swim aired the season 4 premiere "Everyone's Entitled To
My Opinion" in November...unannounced, at 3 AM.
Finally, in January 2004, season four began with "Camp".
An odd thing about season 4 is how it divides the HM fanbase; some
consider it the best season by far, others think the show had lost
the feel of the first season in favor of becoming a generic sitcom.
Though I think most are in the middle. The fourth season did not receive
good ratings; while perhaps acceptable by Adult Swim 2001 standards,
HM didn't exaclty grow in popularity. In comparison to the new Adult
Swim standards (raised highly by Family Guy and Futurama), Home Movies
was a poor performer. A mix of these ratings, combined with a Cartoon
Network rule of "52 episodes and you're done", resulted
in the show's cancellation. Luckily, Lazzo more or less confirmed
with Brendon Small halfway through the season that the show would
not be coming back. The final episode, "Focus Grill", aired
April 4th, 2004, and managed to be a satisfying concluding episode.
Despite the usual rush of internet petitions and letter campaigns,
Home Movies was finished. Adult Swim, who as far as this writer can
tell are geunine fans of the show, still find a spot for it as of
this writing (August 2006). You can usually find it at the back end
of the Sunday block, or rarely on a weekday run.
Through much searching and a bit of luck, Small and Bouchard were
able to land a DVD deal. The complete first season of Home Movies
was released on DVD on November 16th, 2004, by the company Shout!
Factory. A nice set of extras was included. The show has, very likely,
found a bigger audience on DVD than it ever did on network TV. Though
once again not on a Family Guy level (don't expect a DVD-inspired
resurrection), the sales of the first season were pretty good. This
pattern continued, and all of the seasons are now available on DVD
(check out the merchandise section).
A show like Home Movies is the type of thing a cult fanbase is made
of; distinctly not for everyone, HM has found an audience who can
tell exactly what its going for, and enjoy it. And that's an accomplishment.