The Madness of OH! Mikey (Part One)
Overview: "OH! Mikey" is the sort of gem that crosses my desk once in a blue moon. It's too clean to be a porn review, too bizarre to be a movie review, and too good to be completely trashed. "OH! Mikey" tells the story of a comically stereotypical American family named the Fuccons that are resettling in Japan and meeting new people. The Fuccons are "Mother", "Father", their young son Mikey, and his cousin Laura who frequently visits. They live in a house and neighborhood that looks like it would belong in "Blue Velvet's" Lumberton, USA. I think Lynch would feel a bit of camaraderie for the creators of "OH! Mikey" when you consider that they decided to fill the entire cast list with immobile mannequins.
"OH! Mikey" is what you would get if you combined "Leave it to Beaver" with a sketch comedy show and the front window of a department store. Each half hour long episode is divided into a number of very short vignettes featuring the grinning mannequins of the Fuccon family engaged in a wide variety of antics. The Fuccons and the other characters they encounter barely move at all on screen and when they do it's usually because their feet are tied to a swing on a playground or a stiff breeze is rocking them back and forth.
The show features no animation whatsoever and the lifeless actors exist in the real world, with trees blowing and water spraying from garden hoses. In one of the segments in the first episode we do get to see young Mikey dancing at the insistence of a ski-masked interloper. This dance appears to be achieved by only showing him from the waist up and awkwardly rotating and swaying him by his legs. This is as active as any of the characters gets, and the show is fantastic because of it.
One of the biggest strengths of "OH! Mikey" is the odd assortment of characters on the show. Before we get into a blow-by-blow of the first episode, let's take a look at the small but robust list of players in this melodrama.
Mikey Fuccon - The titular hero of "OH! Mikey" is an innocent young boy with the least terrifying expression of any of the characters in the show. Perpetually happy, he is often the comedic victim of circumstance in the show, whether it's his evil Cousin Laura's torment or his parent's bizarre tests and manipulations. Unless he's being dressed up as a girl by his father in a scheme to win the heart of the girl he has a crush on, Mikey wears a school uniform and a happy expression fixed eternally on his lifeless face.
Mother Fuccon - Mikey's mother is a blond-haired stick of a woman with a mouth constantly frozen into a wide-open yell. Her character is not particularly deep in the show, but she's probably my favorite "look" of any character because of how ridiculous her expression is. Most of her dialogue and action in the plot consists of bossing Mikey around and she lacks the borderline madness of Mikey's father.
Father Fuccon - The perpetually grinning patriarch of the family, Mikey's father hides a few secrets under that white smile of his. Extremely friendly and generally supportive to Mikey, he also occasionally hatches a crackpot scheme like the aforementioned plot that involved dressing Mikey up as a girl.
Laura - Mikey's blond cousin is a petulant girl who is never pleased with what's going on and isn't afraid to amuse herself at someone else's expense; usually Mikey's. When Mikey first meets her she's so annoying to his parents that they pawn responsibility for her off on him and force him to endure her manipulative behavior.
Mikey's Teacher Bob - One of the most interesting characters in the show is Mikey's extremely shy teacher. Bob is so shy that he hides behind his domineering mother at all times and only speaks by hissing whispered words that his mother then translates and speaks for him. The mannequin of Bob was well chosen for looking shady and nervous.
Bob's Mom - Bob's Mom, or "Bob-Mama" as she asks to be called, is ostensibly Bob's voice but she often speaks what she thinks he should say. In one episode they get into an argument that is made all of the funnier because she has to describe everything he's saying to her to everyone else.
Emily - Emily is the girl that Mikey has a crush on. She seems to be friendly with him, but their relationship is almost always derailed by interference from another character. Laura accomplishes this in one episode by wailing that Mikey robbed her and stole all of her money. Her plan to extort cash from Mikey fails but Emily feels sorry for her and takes her out for coffee while Mikey is left wondering what the hell just happened.
The Twins - Tony and Charles are identical twin brothers and British expatriates living in Japan. They, along with Laura, are the main force of evil in the show. Whereas Laura is sort of a childish villain, Tony and Charles come across as genuinely sinister.
There are a few other characters in the show, like Emily's brother, but most of them only appear very briefly throughout the course of the first DVD.
The Disc begins with Mikey and his parents standing outside their new home in Japan which looks exactly like a house in America. They all mention that they are looking forward to starting their new lives and "living as Japanese" and then we are introduced to the first "laugh ending". Every scene (with a couple of exceptions) in "OH! Mikey" ends with all of the characters in the scene looking in the general direction of the camera and laughing insanely. This opening scene is a great example of how absurd this device is, because there isn't even a joke in the opening scene. They just all say their one line about looking forward to their new life in Japan and then they cackle madly for a few seconds while music fades in.
Part 1: "The Start of Our Life in Japan"
Mikey and his family are settling into life in Japan by enjoying a Sunday breakfast together around the kitchen table. In this scene his parents admonish him in unison to eat, brush his teeth, and then go to school. Mikey's dad explains that if you don't brush your teeth you'll get "inordinately bad breath". When Mikey asks his parents if there's school on a Sunday in Japan, his father replies through his serial killer grin "Take a chance, son. It's your first step to manhood." Mikey agrees and the scene fades to black, when it comes back the family is posed in the front yard with Mikey's mother spraying a garden hose onto Mikey's head. Not surprisingly, there was no school on a Sunday, and the whole family acts like Mikey should have already known this. Mikey wonder "Mom, why are you pouring water on me?" The reason is, of course, that mom waters on Sundays and it's a Sunday! Duh, Mikey! The family has an uncomfortably long laugh while looking into the camera and spraying water on Mikey and the scene fades to black.
When the action resumes - and by action I mean every character remaining perfectly motionless - it's evening inside the Fuccon family living room. Mikey wants to go to a theme park tomorrow, but he still fails to understand the basic concept that Sundays are the days for going to theme parks, Mondays are for going to school. Mikey's nurturing family explains that every day of the week you have to eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and then go to school. They basically reinforce the importance of routine, but Mikey wonders what would happen if the routine were broken. "You would get inordinately bad breath!" says Mikey's father, and cue the insane and haunting laughter once again!
Fade to the Fuccon bedroom, with Mikey's mother and father staring at each other like a couple of lacquered corpses and discussing how horrifying theme parks are. They resolve to avoid them at all costs and then begin laughing insanely as their legs move disconcertingly beneath the blanket. The camera pans left and we see that Mikey is standing next to their bed laughing as well.