Comedy Central has always tended to the absurd -- foul-mouthed eight-year-olds, fake news shows and the idea that Colin Quinn is funny, for example.

Still, their newest offering, Drawn Together, a reality show for cartoon characters, strains even the limits the network has set for itself.

The basic premise is that eight cartoon characters, all ridiculously oversimplified parodies of animation types, come together to live in a Real World-esque house with typical Real World-esque themes -- screwed-up relationships, nonsensical fights and lots and lots of alcohol. It's almost as if someone at Comedy Central said, "Well, it's so stupid, it has to work."

But the network clearly has a lot of confidence in the show, placing it in the timeslot immediately following South Park, the slot that broke its second-highest rated show, Chappelle's Show. That confidence seems justified.

The writing team, led by veterans of The Simpsons, Action and Andy Richter Controls the Universe, has done its best to take the show's premise to its absurdist heights. A Pokemon parody bent on killing its housemates, an ambiguously gay Dungeons and Dragons character on a neverending quest to save his girlfriend, a racist princess involved in drunken lesbian kisses with a black Beyonce/Josie and the Pussycats type? Hey, why not? But it works, and is often a genuinely funny, sometimes insightful parody.

Even so, there are fine lines when making comedy that stretches the boundaries of taste, as well as the traditional conventions of cartoons. The song that Princess Clara and Foxxy Love sing after their interracial kiss in the pilot does teeter on the line, to be sure, but it never crosses it, and that sort of tension can be quite funny. But there are moments, as when '20s actress Toot Braunstein guillotines herself and Spanky Ham (a dirty pig voiced by Adam Carolla) uses the decapitated head as a toilet, that would simply have been funnier if they had gone for subtlety over shock. Other cartoon shows, like The Simpsons and South Park, have always been good at, even when going for shock-value, not stepping on their own jokes. But the writers here seem not to have gotten that art down quite yet. These are problems, though, which can be fixed with time and experience with the characters.

Drawn Together is a show with real potential, a show that can be both absurd and intelligent when it wants to be. If its writers can come together and find a solid voice, it can be a show with real staying power as well.

Drawn Together premieres on Comedy Central Wednesday, October 27, at 10:30pm.


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