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TV4U: Clone High

Hey, do you guys want to hear a joke? MTV.

That's it. That's the joke. The best description I've heard of this network today is a "cesspool of cultural filth." There is not a single show, person, and I'd almost be willing to bet THOUGHT related to that station that wouldn't make Darwin think natural selection had started running the other way.

But it wasn't always that way.

There was a time where MTV stood for something besides everything wrong with the world. There was a time where they played shows that challenged our perception of what could and could not be televised entertainment. There was even a time when the station played music, believe it or not. MTV was the voice of a new generation, and the voice of an entertainment revolution. It was during the dying days of this credibility that MTV came out with what was easily one of their best shows, and one of my personal favorites: Clone High.

Now, I could go on describing just what this show was about, but I think I'll let the opening theme do it for me.

This is what MTV had in 2002 that most stations lack today. Imagine you're a network executive, and someone proposes a parody of a high school drama where everyone in the school is a clone of a famous person. Name a network that would actually look at that idea and go "green light it."

As to the show itself, what truly made it great were the characters. Yes, the stories were amusing, but with no overarching plot, it had to be character-driven. There was John F. Kennedy, the jock/womanizer and his girlfriend (on and off), the promiscuous Cleopatra, and the love triangle featuring the two and a tall, awkward Abraham Lincoln.

The other two main clone characters went completely the other way with history. Joan of Arc and Ghandi, both buckling under the pressure of living up to their clone parents became a goth girl and a party animal respectively. The two are Lincoln's best friends, and Joan has an exceptionally obvious crush on him. Well...obvious to anyone who isn't Abe. Other historic figures like Ghengis Khan, George Washington Carver and, most hilariously, Paul Revere take cameos every now and again.

Outside of the clones we had Principle Scudsworth and his robot servant Mr. Butlertron (he called everyone one knew why...) Scudsworth was great in that he was so outrageously insane that literally anything he did was funny. He spend an entire episode screaming STAMOS!! in a rage filled madness against his arch-rival John Stamos, and it makes me chuckle to this day.

But apart from that, the best thing about the show was its use of subtlety. Did you catch in the intro theme that when Ghandi made a finger-gun at JFK, Kennedy recoiled instinctively? Dark yes, but the show is full of blink-and-you-miss-it jokes like that.

So why did the show only last for a year? Well, it got fantastic reviews from both critics and audiences, so what went wrong? One reason was Ghandi. There was unfortunate timing with the anniversary of his assassination, and protests of his portrayal in Clone High were across India, even though the show goes out of its way to say that the clones are NOT their originals, and that Ghandi is the way he is because of the stress of having to try to be as great as the original was. Either way, there was political pressure.

But I think there was another reason. See, this was the transitional period in MTV from showing features like Clone High and actual music, to the state that it's in today. Had Clone High come out a few years prior, I think it would have had a decent run. As it stood, it just didn't fit the image that MTV was starting to create for itself. Many of the episodes can be found on youtube, and I highly recommend that you check out this forgotten, under appreciated masterpiece of a show.