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 role herself.

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.