|Princess Lucy is sent off to the dark and bizarre Gurney Orphanage in the slightly twisted CBC series What It's Like Being Alone.
My 13-year-old son took one look at What It's Like Being Alone and summed it up in five words: Tim Burton meets Sesame Street.
Which means it kinda falls between two audiences, satisfying neither. (It also kinda explains why CBC is premiering it Monday in late night at 11 p.m.).
That doesn't mean it's not cool and original, it just means it will likely baffle many viewers.
The story revolves around Princess Lucy (voiced by Dwayne "rhymes with shrill" Hill), a "fat grey mutant thing" covered in warts and wrapped in a pink toilet paper roll. Lucy thinks she's being sent to an enchanted castle by her parents, but really she's being dumped at a dead-end orphanage on the edge of nowhere.
Lucy quickly meets up with the other bizarre inmates of the Gurney Orphanage: Brian, a bulb head with two brains who wears a computer box for shorts; Charlie, who is literally flaming; Beasley and Byron, a two-headed double dude; Army, a torso with one arm; Semour, a one-eyed guy (see more -- get it?); Sammy, a green Gilla punk; Nanny Goodapple, a creepy kitchen witch; and Aldous, a tall, poopy, 17-year-old Emily The Strange clone.
Over the next 13 episodes, they'll all be trying to get adopted. Good freakin' luck.
Like Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, What It's Like Being Alone is rendered in stop motion animation. It's a process that dates back to Gumby and Davey And Goliath (and is also used on the funny Canadian-made Entertainment Tonight parody The Wrong Coast).
It looks accessible to kids but the humour is very adult, especially the disturbing massacre in Episode 3. When one character is flung from the nearly "Hapless Forest" and says, "This is better than drugs. Well, better than really bad drugs," he could just as easily be talking about this series.
What It's Like Being Alone springs from the twisted imagination of Brad Peyton, a 26-year-old Newfoundland native who already has moved to Hollywood and gone on to three major U.S. film projects. Among his latest mentors is two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks.
You'd think a comedy about mutants at an orphanage would be a hard sell to the stodgy CBC, but somebody clearly thought Peyton -- a Canadian Film Centre grad -- was worth a patron.
It probably helped that the series is produced by Fred Fuchs, who was recently appointed CBC's executive director of arts and entertainment. That it has sat on the shelf at CBC for more than a year probably has more to do with internal politics and complicated content points than merit, although programmers clearly can't figure out who it is supposed to appeal to.
My guess is that it will click with viewers looking for something dark and different, although, even for these folks, the main character will quickly wear out her welcome.
I also wish What It's Like Being Alone was funnier, but it has its moments. It has that cynical East Coast edge, as when dour Aldous tells odd little Lucy that "you're just like us -- abandoned by a harsh and uncaring world, where celebrity is considered a talent and true genius winds up in a bargain bin."
Truer words were never spoken.