By Scott McNee
One of the first things people learn about Moral Orel, if they ever learn about the show at all, is that Adult Swim cancelled the show for being too dark. It probably is. But it’s also one of the smartest, funniest comedies to come out of the channel. Adult Swim have recently decided to make all three seasons and the one-off special available to stream on their website, and people should not be put off by the show’s reputation.
At first a parody of sanctimonious religious education videos, Moral Orel adopts the stop motion clay puppetry and cutesy animation to which Bible-thumping parents are inexplicably drawn. In the repressed, white-picket fence town of Moralton, Orel Puppington lives a life of purity with father Clay, mother Bloberta and brother Shapey. Much of the first two seasons work like a Butters-starring episode of South Park – the well-meaning Orel stumbles upon the town’s festering problems and is naively swept up. One of the best early episodes revolves around Orel’s attempts to give to the poor – the sweetly stupid boy somehow ends up buying (and becoming addicted to) crack cocaine. At the end of the episode, as with most episodes, Clay belts Orel in his study and imparts the irreverent moral lesson of the day: drugs are all well and good, but they could be a gateway to using slang.
From there, the town of Moralton opens up, and its righteous, depressed and hypocritical denizens provide their own interactions with Orel. Highlights include self-appointed moral guardian Miss Censordoll, who blacklists every book but the Bible and press gangs the naïve into countless ‘concerned’ protests. ‘Satan starts a-crying, when you use a clever rhy-me,’ she imparts, before handing someone a placard declaring: ‘hors d’oeuvres are what a whore serves!’
As the series progresses, and impossibly manages to become darker, Orel’s parents become the real highlight of the show. Living in a hateful sham marriage, the two are stuck together by a mutual fear of divorce and the knowledge that no one else can stand them. Clay is the show’s strongest character, an inevitable endpoint of the archetype led by Homer Simpson and Randy Marsh. Constantly cheerful, dressed like a Fifties-breadwinner, and fond of his pipe, Clay is in reality a vicious alcoholic who relishes the deeply racist and misogynistic society he’s immersed in. In the infamous two-parter ‘Nature’, a father-son hunting trip devolves into carnage as Clay continues to drink and espouse his hatred for every living thing including himself. At the end of the episode, a severely injured Orel tries to tell his mother ‘dad becomes a bad person when drinks’. Bloberta smiles nonchalantly: “Oh Orel, he doesn’t become a bad person. That’s just his true nature coming out.’ Bloberta’s own stories are just as funny, and just as depressing – the episode ‘Numb’ revolves around her attempts to find solace in an affair, only to discover that Moralton breeds nothing but soulless perverts incapable of caring for anything.
The antidote to the typical family sitcom, Moral Orel deserves its reputation. It also deserves far more attention.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’).appendChild(s);