Initially, on first viewing, as I watched it, I laughed a lot. They did a great job of setting the whole thing up and while this is a totally new venture for The Kids, as it's not a sketch show and it's not a movie, not only does it essentially blend those two mediums by having one continuous story line over the course of 8 loose episodes of television but it also lets you know that you're on familiar turf with their usual brand of bizarrely observed archetypes. Obviously, watching them one after the other, it was difficult to still be chuckling on episode 8 after 2+ hours of lunacy (I was still grinning though) but unlike anything else the Kids have ever done it is the plot that keeps you watching, that and the characters.
Firstly, the plot. Yes it essentially boils down to a slightly contrived and very loose whodunnit in a town full of characters who are all revealed, over the course of the running time, to be engaged in some sort of over the top soap opera but it is written well and each character, far more this time than before, is fleshed out through exposition and amusing flash backs.
The show has obviously been compared to both Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen, the latter being a little closer on the mark and I don't think The Kids themselves would deny this legacy but they do make the 'murder in a small strange town' show their very own. The only negative to having obviously concentrated on the plot for each of their grotesque creations slightly more than usual, is that, in the end it is somewhat of a let down that due to the disarray of the slightly weak finale there aren't really consequences to any of it and that counter acts the nice build up a bit.
Secondly, the characters. While each of The Kids gets their chance to shine with a variety of mad, sick or stupid townsfolk, not all the characters hit the mark particularly well. Bruce McCulloch and Scott Thompson come off the best in terms of playing varied, interesting, genuinely well crafted and funny characters and Mark McKinney probably spends the most time on screen as he plays seemingly more main tier characters than the others in the shape of Death, The Judge, one half of The Cops and the News Anchor, this does mean, therefore, that my two favourite Kids and founding members, Kevin McDonald and David Foley seemed somewhat sidelined. Kevin McDonald has a lot of great jokes in the show through a surprisingly small selection of parts and he can still deliver an underwhelming line in such a way that makes it an absolute killer joke but he's been given only one real character that's worth anything, that he can really sink his teeth into, and that's the part of the Defense attorney who is putting all his money into increasingly ridiculous medical devices and means to keep his extremely aged and ill cat alive. I am not sure Dave Foley, on the other hand, elicited one laugh from me the entire time, which sadly must make him The Kids' Eric Idle. He had only one main character and that was of the mayor's drunken wife and she was possibly the least funny character on the whole show.
What has happened, you see, is that when I watched it the first time, all the way through, I enjoyed it, I laughed, it was fun seeing The Kids again do their stuff and I would still recommend it to anyone who is a fan of their comedy but after just a day of having it (and this review) rattling around in my head, it's errors, like a sweet full of chemicals and saccharine, have started to leave a bad taste in my mouth. As I write this and try and organise it in my brain, trying to keep the positive at the forefront, the negative slowly creeps in.
For example, despite filming at a good looking, real location there seems to have been very little attempt made to make the wigs, costumes or make up look good or real. One of the many things that's fantastic about Brain Candy is that it doesn't look like the same guys just threw on silly wigs, dresses, comical bow ties or some glasses and just wandered on to set, they all actually look like people, like proper characters and The Kids play them as such. Here they all look like they literally just ran into the make up trailer, stuck a moustache on and some joke-shop teeth then ran right back out again and played the scene. Also when you think back to Brain Candy some of them played up to 9 parts whereas here we don't seem to get the same diversity with twice the running time.
Then there's the character of Death. They name the show after him, McKinney plays him perfectly well and there is a neat little character arc by the end but with actually very little death in the plot line we are just left watching the character of Death wonder about and take up time.
I would also say that fat jokes and hand job jokes, while maybe a little funny and in one case highly disturbing, seem a little beneath the Kids and the fat suit character especially seems a little old and tired now.
These are all things, though, that niggle me as a fan who had high hopes but also they didn't ruin it totally either. It didn't have quite the inspired weirdness of their previous productions, although the little boy character of Rampop who sees adult humans as brightly coloured, badly rendered butterflies is pretty funny and strange but, on the plus side, it did take the time to actually delve into proper story lines for the characters this time and they did all agree that this time, making it, they all had fun.
A special mention must go out to Scott Thompson who filmed the thing while he was still having chemo for cancer, you'd never know and he is superb in it.
Overall then my summary would have to be that, if you can look past the tv production values and the fact that they probably should've just made it a tight 2 hour TV movie, when it hits, it is as sublimely funny, weird and wonderful as the kids have ever been and when it misses it luckily never gets embarrassing and you know there'll always be something hysterical round the corner, so in that way it is probably more akin with the original sketch show than the somewhat more original Brain Candy.
As a fan - 7.5 out of 10 for old times sake and old crumb cake
As a critic - 6 out of 10 chips, pickles and a valiant effort.