“How much acid do you guys do?” asks a commenter on the YouTube page for the first episode of Sunset Television. It’s an appropriate question.
Sunset is some old school psychedelic satire, making heavy use of rapid channel surfing editing, dark absurdist humor, and pass-the-bong image and sound effects (dropped pitch seems to really make these guys giggle) to lampoon the cheesiest of boob tube cheese as well as some unidentified flying miscellaneous weirdness. Created by Drew Blatman, Alex Goldberg, Graham Mason, Jesse Millward and others, the “station,” now up to its fourth episode, looks to be one of the smarter and stranger web series concoctions on the internet, keeping the freak power flame alive in the age of dull bro-centric comedy.
Episode 1 is titled “Get in the Zone,” and like all of Sunset Television’s output, it’s divided into short, mini-sketches, opening with a bizarre, unexplained clip of a man requesting someone to slap him and then after a looped slapping telling us with tears in his eyes, “Despite all its faults, I still love this country.” Suddenly the Sunset logo appears superimposed on a 70s family walking silhouetted in a sunset (further Sunset bumpers are done in the style of early-80s computer graphics), which seamlessly melds into crummy VHS-recorded shots of a model slurping a soft drink and a woman breastfeeding a baby.
So…what’s going on here?!?! Before we can even formulate theories Sunset gives us something relatively concrete: a cracked-out parody of useless 1-800 product commercials, “Get Coned!”, a dog funnel for men who get things lodged in their belly buttons – raisins, sunflower seeds, baked beans, strawberries, salt water taffy, tea bags, soy sauce, over the counter medication – and can’t resist eating it.
For every “straightforward” bit there’s a ton of unclassifiable odds and ends: cartoons wizards that make poker players dance, workout instructors mixed – through the help of iMovie, one presumes – with military Soviet singers, LSD space trips cameo’d by The Passion of the Christ, Jerry Garcia, and Meatloaf, a dog’s barking translated into an inspirational message.
The great thing about this kind of format is that one can do anything – and I mean anything – within it, and even the more bizarre failures will be brief enough to get a pass. Not that there’s much filler on Sunset Television. Episode 2, “Heavy Metal,” rips out of context Little House on the Prairie (I think), shots of doctors examining knees, and a demonstration of guttural shouts and sighs by an over-excited denimed man; send-ups include a commercial advertising “The World’s Most Masculine Boy” in the style of monster truck rallies and something called a “digital laxative.”
This is the briefest and most chaotic Sunset episode before the station moves into “Prime Time” with a coffee commercial parody for piping hot morning chicken broth (called back later as “Sunday’s Best Chicken Bath”); “Cops For Kids,” in which cute cartoon animal heads replace those of human hicks and peace officers (no, they’re not rendered pigs, that would be too easy); and a heartfelt, laugh track-accompanied sitcom, “Death House,” in which the characters ponder and bring about their own mortality. Son to father: “Am I going to die?” Father to son, after much hand-wringing deliberation: “No, you’re not going to die. Not as long as I have anything to do with it.” Father snaps son’s neck while in an embrace. “Oh god. I lied to him.”
In order to leave it as a surprise for those who know Sunset’s for them I won’t say much about Episode 4, “Sadness,”except that it may be the best, and has bits that border on cracked genius. Then again, I love all of Sunset Television, an atavistic representative of out-there mockery for the ADD generation. But I recognize it’s an acquired taste, and many might dig the sketches while also being put off by the mind-bending cacophonics.
Luckily Sunset provides fragments from each episode’s bouillabaisse for the more selective viewer. Finally: one can watch “Night Runner” – “When you got a job that gets you down, when you got a wife who don’t want nuthin’ to do with you…sometimes all you can do is stay alive, is get out there – and RUN”; cut to old man running at night, cheesy 70s theme music, and a yellow-and-black polarized, split screen logo: “Michelangelo Cummings is Night Runner” – in all its individual glory.
Check it out at SunsetTelevision.com.