Everybody Hates Chris: Everybody Hates Eggs
As a change of pace, I asked TV know-it-all Paul Goebel to write a rebuttal to today's review. Goebel is an actor and comedian who appeared as the "TV Geek" on the short-lived Comedy Central quiz show Beat the Geeks and has appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ally McBeal, Will and Grace and other shows. He currently hosts a show at the UCB Theater in Los Angeles, and does a weekly podcast with his pal Jim Bruce called "The Paul Goebel Show." If you like TV, you should check it out. His response is after my review.
Ever since Linda Lavin helmed the CBS Schoolbreak Special "Flour Babies" in 1990, the idea of students being assigned fake babies has been spoofed numerous times. The winner for best spoof goes to the Strangers with Candy episode "A Burden's Burden" in which Jerri and her classmates are assigned actually babies. There's also the South Park episode "Follow That Egg" that manages to tackle both gay marriage and child custody battles when the kids are given eggs and told to treat them like real babies.
In this episode of Everybody Hates Chris, the students at Corleone Junior High School are also given eggs, and like Token in the South Park episode, Chris is given a brown egg rather than a white one. This is yet another attempt on the part of Ms. Morello to try and make Chris feel special, but of course, it just comes across as racist. She even makes him a single father because she assumes he's more familiar with that kind of situation. When Chris insists he does have a father, Ms. Morello merely smiles and says it's just too bad his mother doesn't know the father's name.
It's a funny moment, but part of what made Ms. Morello such a great character in past episodes is that her ignorance stemmed from what she read about black people rather than actually knowing any black people. I haven't been able to put my finger on it, but something about her remark in regards to Chris' family situation just seemed a little too easy, as if it were a conclusion reached by someone with genuine racist tendencies rather than a teacher lost in her own delusion of how the black community functions.
Despite Ms. Morello's perceptions, Chris actually has a very tight-knit family. Unfortunately, that means having a mom (Rochelle) who won't let him get by with just keeping the egg in the fridge all week. She demands Chris treat the egg like a real child, and even wakes him several times during the night to feed and change it. Chris learns something in the end, because this is a sitcom and that's what sitcom characters do. However, even if Everybody Hates Chris does stick to a basic sitcom template it still fills that template with gags that are smarter and funnier than a lot of what passes for a situation comedy these days. Bill Watterson and Scott Adams might have used the same type of drawing paper, but it's no mystery who had the better comic strip. To clarify, Everybody Hates Chris would be Bill Watterson in this analogy. Scott Adams would be whatever lame sitcom you want to insert. Okay, then.
The subplot about Tawnya being afraid of werewolves and sleeping with the light on --thus running up the electric bill-- had some funny moments, but the most laughs came from guest star Todd Bridges. Bridges played Monk, a military man with zero trust for authority (as opposed to an obsessive-compulsive crime solver). I hope to see him appear in more episodes; he fits into Chris' neighborhood of eccentrics quite well. There's even a great moment where Chris actually turns and faces the audience in the midst of one of Monk's rants as narrator Chris Rock asks, "What you talkin' 'bout, Monk?" Yeah, the gag is more or less a "gimmie," but it was still funny.
Other great moments:
Rochelle worrying so much about the kids bringing a baby home she suspects a football, a shoebox and a bag of baby carrots might be real babies
Greg building a tiny crib and mobile for his egg baby, and arguing with his pretend wife over whether it should go to Yale or Harvard
Tawnya threatening to drive a silver stake through Drew's heart unless he can prove he's not really a werewolf
In response to Adam's review of this episode, I want to point out that the displays of racism by the white characters in Chris' life has always bothered me too. While some characters are merely ignorant of Chris' life, others, like Caruso are straight up cruel. And, now, as Adam pointed out, Mrs. Morello seems to be just as bad. I have a hard time believing other kids hated Chris so much when he was in school, but then again, I went to junior high in Tucson, Arizona, where the black kids made up .05% of the school population, so what do I know? The best part of the episode is definitely Todd Bridges. It reminded me why I like Chris Rock so much. He's one of only a few comedians who show a respect for the TV he grew up watching. By having people like Bridges, Antonio Fargas, Ernest Thomas and Clarence Williams III on the show, he is paying homage to classic television. I'm glad to hear that the show has been renewed for another season.
Adam's final thoughts:
Damn, Paul agreed with me. I wanted rage and fisticuffs, damn it. I do have Paul beat in one way: my high school had no black students whatsoever. That's small town Iowa for you. Like I've said in my other reviews, though, I can relate to the economic struggle of Chris' family, as I also grew up in a situation where money was tight and we learned to appreciate what we had. Chris' race is a factor in how he gets along in life and how others perceive him, but Everybody Hates Chris is also just a show about being a kid. The show focuses on struggles we all went through but doesn't ignore how being a minority can exacerbate those experiences.