In our last post we began comparing what I believe are the two leading contemporary satirists each at the top of their game: Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the Family Guy and American Dad, and Mike Judge, the creator of Office Space, Idiocracy and King of the Hill.
Judge, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, grew up in Albuquerque and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in physics (who would have thought?) from the University of California, San Diego. In my opinion he is best known for Office Space, Idiocracy and King of the Hill. Interestingly enough, both Office Space and Idiocracy were not by any means box office hits.
Office Space had a cost of $10,000,000 and grossed $10,800,000. However, like MacFarlane’s Family Guy, Office Space had massive home video sales topping six million by 2006 and by 2003 Comedy Central had run the movie 35 times. Judge even made a cameo appearance in the film as Stan (complete with hairpiece and fake mustache), the manager of Chotchkie’s, a fictionalized parody of chain restaurants like Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s, but was credited as William King. In my research for this post I came across some interesting facts about Office Space:
Initech is real.
At least 5 different companies named Initech have been founded since the film’s release.
The original Office Space was a series called “Milton.”
The film was based on a series of animated shorts by Judge titled “Milton.” Fox Studios wanted the film to be based solely on the “Milton” character, but Judge wanted to have an ensemble cast.
Judge’s inspiration came from working in an office filing TPS reports.
While at work filing real TPS reports, Judge met a lonely co-worker who would rant about his bosses and how they constantly moved his desk. Judge went home and animated what would become “Milton.” Which raises the question, does art imitate life or does life imitate art?
Office Space gave birth to the red Swingline stapler.
Many people believe this, but it is not exactly true. The red Swingline stapler Milton used was made by Swingline decades ago but production had long since ceased. However, the movie’s prop department had one specially made for the film. Three years after the release of the movie, requests for the stapler were so overwhelming that Swingline put the Rio Red 747 Business Stapler into production.
Entertainment Weekly could not decide if it loved or hated the film.
Entertainment Weekly gave Office Space a C-rating but named it one of the “The 100 best films from 1983 to 2008.”
We have already reviewed Office Space here at JPFMovies as well as Idiocracy. But the tale of Idiocracy is much like that of Office Space. Unsure of how to market the film after disastrous test screenings, Fox sat on the film for over a year, before finally giving it an unusually trivial release in only 6 markets (skipping over major markets such as New York City) — by comparison a full blown promotional release covers 600 markets. Fox’s lack of marketing showed as the movie took in only $400,000 on its opening weekend, but the film has made a strong comeback in home DVD sales. In an interview Judge speculated that (in addition to Fox’s incompetent marketing department) the studio figured Idiocracy would be received like Office Space, not a money maker at the theaters but profitable in the DVD market, so why would they waste time and money promoting the movie when they could obtain the same result without spending it? To a certain extent they were right; Idiocracy has gained a cult like following similar to that of Office Space.
King of the Hill.
This weekly animated series lasted for 13 seasons that ran from January 12, 1997, to May 6, 2010, on FOX. The show centers on the Hills, a working-class family in the fictional small town of Arlen, Texas. Judge and Daniels conceived the series after a run with Judge’s Beavis and Butt-head on MTV, and the series debuted on FOX as a midseason replacement on January 12, 1997, quickly becoming a hit. The show’s popularity led worldwide syndication and episodes run every night on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show became one of Fox’s longest-running series, and at the time of its cancellation the second longest-running American animated series.
Hank Hill is an old fashioned, hardworking, beer-drinking man who is trying to live in a modern Texas world. His wife is opinionated, his son is a disappointment, his friends are losers, and his Father is oppressive. The show is unpretentious, following an average family and average family man Hank Hill who “sells propane and propane accessories” as the assistant manager of Strickland Propane.
When he is not selling propane, Hank mows his lawn, drinks beer, watches football games, and just stands in the alley with his friends. The Souphanousinphones are his conceited Laotian neighbors who refer to him and his family as “hillbillies” or “rednecks.” His son Bobby is in love with their daughter Connie. Bobby is arguably the funniest of the show’s characters—but another contender, in my opinion, is Dale Gribble. Bill Dauterive, Dale Gribble, and Boomhauer are Hank’s closest friends and are usually found drinking Alamo Beer in their sacred alley.
Bill Dauterive is a lonely divorced man who is not the brightest of the group. Dale is a man who suffers from paranoia due to theories of conspiracies. Boomhauer is a man who usually talks very quickly; so quickly it is difficult to understand what he is saying, though the guys can understand him quite well. Throughout the years, Hank has faced many problems caused by them pushing the limits of their friendship.
Hank’s wife Peggy claims to be extremely bright, but that is a running gag. For instance she claims that she knows Spanish, but she pronounces the words the wrong way (such as espanol instead of español). She is a three time substitute teacher of the year award recipient (and she never lets you forget it) and when she is not at school she tries to show her (non-existent) intelligence by doing things like starting a business or selling real estate, all of which flop.
There are other characters who deserve recognition but I would be writing for a week if I mentioned them all. Needless to say, I am a King of the Hill fan and have collected all 13 seasons either electronically or on DVD.
Where does this leave us? Well, in my opinion, there is a clear winner: Mike Judge. Between the cult classics of Office Space and Idiocracy and a 13 season animated series he clearly comes out ahead. He exhibits versatility by writing and directing films and TV shows as well as being an excellent animator. This guy with a physics degree really has a sharp satirical edge making his work a cut above MacFarlane’s—and I am a connoisseur of satire. I invite your thoughts on the question. Now you know where I come down on this question: Judge.