As anybody who reads this column knows, I am a big fan and regular semi-advertent practitioner of willful stupidity. My shoelaces rarely find their across-the-tongue soul mate. I have presented at every DumbCon and delivered keynote speeches (“Opposites De-Tract: Paula Abdul and the Psychological Duality of Cartoon Selves” and “I Do Not Understand Twin Peaks”) at the most recent ones. Beavis is my spirit animal.
That said, even I’m having a hard time uncovering anti-intellectual merit in the latest wave of aggressively weird and so-dumb-it’s-smart content that creators believe, against all recent evidence, is certain to go viral. I dig Tim & Eric, but can’t begin to imagine what motivated GE Commercial to enlist the two of them (and a nattily be-wigged Jeff Goldblum) to sell light bulbs. When does anti-marketing marketing become “we don’t give a crap whether or not you buy anything, just as long as we amuse at least 1/70th of our potential viewing audience”? Right around the moment Goldblum takes off his shirt, that’s when.
Now it’s Stoopid Buddy Stoodios - the folks who brought us “Robot Chicken,” a show whose appeal is not premised on personal chemical enhancement - that’s getting in on the brand-video act. The studio has teamed with Denny’s, a chain whose appeal is not premised on the appetite-amplifying side effects of personal chemical enhancement, to create “The Grand Slams,” an original web series that wears its weirdness on its sleeve.
The plot - no, actually, there’s a plot - revolves around a quartet of pals who enjoy wacky adventures in and around their… I guess “workplace” is the right word here. Those pals happen to be animated doppelgangers of the Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast mainstays: Egg, Pancake, Sausage and Bacon.
In the first episode, which debuted today, Bacon and Sausage debate whether to allow Pancake past the velvet rope at an exclusive breakfast-only nightspot. Only after Egg arrives and tells the meat-bouncers “he’s with me” is Pancake permitted to enter. And… scene. Per the press release, later episodes in the series will chronicle “the cast’s hilarious escapades through Halloween, a Bold Coffee emergency and much, much more.”
The best thing I can say about the initial clip is that it makes me want to drive to Denny’s and down a Grand Slam in six Belushi-grade chomps. The worst thing I can say is that, well, there have only been three or four moments during my life as a grease gourmand (when I was stricken with Norovirus, during the eight minutes it took to chant my Haftorah, etc.) that I haven’t wanted to drive to Denny’s and down a Grand Slam.
I don’t see how anything in “The Grand Slams” - assuming, of course, that later eps resemble the first one in style and tone - can enhance brand loyalty among existing Denny’s customers or grow it among potential ones. It’s content for the sake of content, less the bold brand play it purports to be than a transparent attempt to garner some credibility with kids on the Internet.
Really, the best move for Stoopid and Denny’s would’ve been to dial up the weirdness even higher. Why occupy a reasonable middle ground, as the first episode does? Explore the possibilities of romantic attachment between anthropomorphized members of distinct food species. Let one member of the Fab Four wrestle with an existential dilemma, like the Atkins Diet. Go the full Andy Kaufman. Holding back, as the first episode appears to do, serves neither brand nor content especially well.