Todd and The Book Of Pure Evil: Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is a Canadian TV show, which is something I rarely get a chance to review, so I jumped at the opportunity when the offer arrived in by e-mail. Additionally, not only is the show Canadian, but the show is a parody of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and movies like The Evil Dead, and I'm a huge fan of both. However, parodies are hard to do right. You have to understand what makes a genre work, and then make humorous changes while still keeping the necessary elements together. Is the creative force behind Todd and the Book of Pure Evil up to the task?
Alex House plays the titular Todd Smith, whom we meet has he's rocking out in front of an enthusiastic crowd. One of the most enthusiastic members of the crowd is Jenny Kolinsky, the hot girl at school. However, this is just him dreaming and his actual talent is quite a bit lower and he and his best friend / one-handed drummer, Curtis Weaver (Bill Turnbull), are laughed off the stage at the tryouts for Battle of the Bands. While Todd is pining for Jenny, Jenny is worried about her father, who disappeared while researching a mysterious book, the Book of Pure Evil. (Her talks with the school guidance counselor, Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins), are not exactly comforting. (It turns out he's not just a bad guidance councilor, but one of the cultists who is looking for the book and had a hand in Jenny's father's disappearance.)
When Todd learns of the book, and how it can grant one wish, he immediately seeks it out. He doesn't have to go far, as it's in the school's trophy case. (He does have to bribe the janitor, Jimmy, with $1.49.) After completing the spell, the book transforms into a guitar and Todd becomes the Metal God he wished to become. However, it has some side effects. When Hannah B. Williams (Melanie Leishman), the smart / awkward girl in school, comes up to him, he's cruel. He even tells his best / only friend to leave. Jenny knows the only way to get the real Todd back is to get the book. She's doesn't actually care about Todd, but the book is her only link to her missing father. Jenny and Curtis work together to save Todd (this isn't a spoiler, because if they failed, it would have been a short series). Unfortunately, the book flies away. It will be back, as we are informed it will seek out those who are emotionally troubled and will use the book's power. It's a high school, there's lots of potential victims.
In the second episode, it is Hannah who finds the book, who discovers just after being scolded by her science teacher for being bad at science, while he simultaneously mocked the death of her parents. (They were killed in a science experiment and she's dedicated her life to science to make them proud.) Shortly after, she and Todd are paired up for the science fair. However, Todd doesn't realize she has the book, because he's distracted because Jenny was teamed up with Curtis. Hannah decides to make a homunculus, which turns out to be a little version of Todd that she controls with her subconscious. This is why Little Todd ends up killing the mean science teacher and tries to kill Jenny, but Curtis figures out what's happening and Todd actually comes up with a plan to stop it, one that works.
So at the end of the second episode, the four of them, Todd, Curtis, Jenny, and Hannah, decide to team up and fight the book, with the occasional help from Jimmy the janitor, as well as these three weird stoners that know way too much. All while under the watchful eye of the evil guidance counselor, Atticus, and whatever evil cult he's mixed up in. Over the next ten or so episodes, we see the book appear to students and our gang try and help them with the results, whether it's zombie rock stars, a fat monster, a Medusa-like member, and more.
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, and the short film it is based on, have won a number of awards, including a Gemini for Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Program or Series, which is the Canadian equivalent to the Golden Globes. It really deserved these awards and from top to bottom, this is a great show. The writing is fantastic and it uses the hook of the wish-granting book and balances the "freak-of-the-week" stories while building an overall mythology. It's a tough balancing act to pull off, but the show does it. Additionally, the show balances the humor, the drama, and the gore very well. I'm not saying there's equal parts of all three; until the second half of the season, there's not a lot of drama to be found. The season ends on a very dramatic note, but I can't go into any details there. The characters also show a lot of growth from mere stereotypes to fully fleshed out characters thanks in equal parts to the writing and the acting.
If there is a flaw with the show, it's the budget, which is on the low side of things. It's a Canadian TV show, so this should come as no surprise. Because of this, the special effects can't live up to TV shows like Buffy, so they rely on being corny and sometimes, they go a little overboard. The gore is extensive at times, but usually played for laughs, and is an asset in my mind, but this is a matter of personal taste.
Extras on the two-disc set start with audio commentary tracks on three of the episodes: Monster Fat, The Phantom of Crowley High, and A Farewell to Curtis' Arm. Disc two also has about 13 minutes of deleted / alternative / extended scenes and outtakes. There is also a 14-minute interview featurette with the main cast (basically everyone on the DVD cover). One of the coolest extras on the DVD is the 18-minute short film, which is the basis for the TV series. It's interesting to watch, but the TV show is better. Finally, there are ten minutes of promos. That's an excellent selection of extras for a DVD that only costs $12 on Amazon.com.
One last note, these are the Canadian version of the episodes, which means there are a few swear words here and there. However, if it weren't for the MPAA's insane rules regarding the F-Bomb, it would be rated PG-13, so I don't think it will be an issue for most fans of the show who have only seen the 'clean' versions shown in the States.
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is like a combination of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Evil Dead, and FUBAR. If you like any one of those, then it's worth checking out. If you like two of them, then it is worth a blind buy. In fact, given the extras and the price of the Season One DVD, it's a Pick of the Week contender. I had high hopes for this series, and it matched everyone of them.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2012-04-22