REVIEW: Todd and the Book of Pure Evil (Season 1)
Living in Canada, you get used to native produced series being–well, being kind of terrible. They say it’s the phenomenon of cultural cringe that makes us naturally averse to our own television. All I know is, I’m no fan of either Being Erica or Little Mosque on the Prairie–same goes for Dan for Mayor or Corner Gas. When it comes to Canadian television, the only show I know that everybody agrees is good is Murdoch Mysteries: a legitimately engaging detective drama set in 1890’s Toronto. No one I know would agree on Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, however. No, no, no. Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is a TV show made almost entirely for my generation. Terrible lesbian twins, penis monsters, humour that’s about as politically incorrect as television will allow post-watershed. I think at some point in the last four hours, I saw blood coming out of a guy’s ass. Oh right, that was just when it started.
Premise is as follows: Todd Smith (Alex House) is a Canadian high-schooler from somewhere anonymous in Manitoba who, one day, while high off his ass, consults three metalheads outside of his school on how to impress Jenny Kolinsky (Maggie Castle). They tell him that any metalhead worth his salt knows about the Book of Pure Evil. Todd asks the Book to give him wacky metal powers, that include the ability to play a guitar solo so blistering as to make Jenny’s boyfriend bleed out of his ass. You’re damn right I’m gonna say that as many times as I can. Let’s say the episode concludes with everything back to normal–for some definition of normal–and now, Todd, Jenny, his friend Curtis Weaver (Billy Turnbull) and a girl who has a crush on him Hannah Williams (Melanie Leishman) have all banded together to find and destroy the Book of Pure Evil. Guidance counsellor Atticus Murphy Jr. is stalking them, trying to find the Book of Pure Evil for a shady evil syndicate of evil.
I first heard of this series when my girlfriend told me about this series that was on Space or something like Space that was almost a live-action cartoon. I first watched it about four weeks later when a couple actresses I knew were playing the aforementioned lesbian twins. What I saw interested me–it was funny, it was profane, it was absolutely beyond all moral boundaries of what had been done in Canada before. It really only caught me for that week, though, and I never watched it again. Sitting here, marathoning the series on Space cos, you know, they have the license to show it, I can safely say I will tune in to a second season and buy this one on DVD/Blu-Ray.
Pure Evil is safely the most profane series I have ever seen in live-action. The supernatural antics of the series provide for ass-bleeding, rock’n’roll zombies, limb by limb dismemberment (with some implied cannibalism), gigantic fat monsters, lesbian cloning turf wars, gigantic talking killer basilisk penises and much much more! Really, its most accurate point of comparison would be the Monster-of-the-Week episodes of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. Wackily immoral characters with either unclear relationships to each other or who flat-out don’t care for one another, horribly un-worksafe monsters, more sex references than are strictly necessary and more genre shoutouts than should be legal. When the fun is here, it’s gory. When the humour is spoken, it’s deadpan and blacker than the furthest reaches of space.
Alex House carries the series with his performance as the titular Todd. A total moron of a boy whose primary pastime is getting baked with his friend Curtis, he’s tasked with finding and destroying the Book of Pure Evil, but doesn’t mean he has to like, care about it or anything. His unrequited crush on Jenny is source of more masturbatory humour than I think my mother is comfortable with. Maggie Castle also wins as Jenny, bringing a great straight-man presence to a series that couldn’t be further off the wall without getting closer to the opposite one. Melanie Leishman and Billy Turnbull are great in the supporting cast as the rather wacky deadpanners. Their job is to say the most situationally inappropriate things possible and act as Basil Exposition, respectively, but not in that order. Leishman is a fantastic Basil Exposition, in case you needed clarification.
But the runaway performance of the series is by far Chris Leavins as guidance counsellor Atticus Finch, Jr. The first time I saw Mr. Leavins was in his YouTube series Cute With Chris, reading the lyrics to T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”. His implacable deadpan made Tallahassee Pain’s poetry into a high art form of comedy called detournement. And if you believed that sentence, you are crazy. Detournement is something entirely else–it was just funny. Because Chris Leavins’ seems to have Leslie Nielson’s penchant for deadpanning entirely ridiculous lines.
The series even has the requisite musical episode. I mean, come on, why are you not watching this series? There’s a running gag involving a sexual encounter with a wolf. You need to be watching this series.
So, although it seems redundant now, I must ask, as it’s how I always conclude: Is Todd and the Book of Pure Evil any good? Yes. Yes it is. It’s very good. It’s funny, it’s offensive, it’s Canadian through and through and it’s distinctly made for OUR TIME AND OUR GENERATION. It’s works like this that live to subvert the status quo of television, even if they never make it beyond their basic cable home channel. Space Network has, ironically, been host to a few good series in its run as a network. There’s Pure Evil, there’s an older series I remember called Alienated that was as good as this, and also had the same tongue-in-cheek genre fiction humour. … That was canceled after two seasons. Uh, guys? Is there any way I can get this series not to be canceled after 26 episodes? I know that it’s hard to pay for a series with special effects this good, prosthetics this believable and a soundtrack this heavy metallically awesome, but–but dammit, I want Todd and the Book of Pure Evil to live! THREE AND A HALF STARS