Review: Alien News Desk “Udder Madness”

Holy cow.

Overview (Spoilers Below!)

Some of the stories on Drexx and Tuva’s agenda this week: Deformed cars called “IndyCars” that are incapable of driving on major roads, but are allowed to race in the Indy 500, a car equivalent to the Paralympics. In “What Is the Meaning of This?!” Drexx and Tuva explore time zones, which divide the world into a series of equal segments, each one hour apart. If you cross the International Date Line, you go a day back in time, so Drexx and Tuva discuss the effects of this phenomenon on death (If you murdered someone and threw him over the date line, would he come back to life? If Drexx murdered a coworker in this totally hypothetical scenario and then stepped over the date line, would he be absolved of all guilt?). At the poles, of course, time completely ceases to exist.

On his segment Blue Planet (so named because his eyes can literally only see the color blue), Zygel returns to discuss a massive, brand-new species: the bodybuilder, a mostly harmless giant that gathers with others of its kind once a year to compete in strength displays. We learn about the rise of office workers meditating—sorry, “playing dead”—on the job, and hear about the horrific discrimination of cow war criminals, enslaved and slaughtered across America in retaliation for their role in the Russian Revolution.

Drexx discusses the most disgusting of all human pornography staples: the ultra-popular fetish of “battery porn.” After raging about what this sinister phrase could possibly mean for a good minute, Tuva interrupts Drexx to inform him that he’s misreading the sign—it does, in fact, say “Pottery Barn.” To save face, Drexx goes on about the ridiculouslessness of keeping ceramics in the same location as livestock. Finally, Tuva takes us on a journey to the hottest, most expensive nightclub chain in the world—the ultra-exclusive “Plus,” also referred to as hospitals.

Meanwhile in the personal lives of our hosts, Drexx admits to bulimia nervosa and denies the suggestion that he may have dyslexia. Tuva wonders if dyslexia is contagious.

Our Take

It’s no secret that I’m fond of this show, but compared to the previous two installments, the satire just doesn’t seem as sharp here. Increasingly, it seems like Drexx and Tuva’s stories are becoming “random” humor rather than using an outside point-of-view to point out the bizarreness of being human. The idea of race cars being a disfigured breed of regular cars, for example, is mildly funny because it’s ridiculous, but it doesn’t really hit on any relatable truths about the world.

The time zone segment improves as it goes on—that bit about time ceasing to have any meaning at the poles is pretty funny—but at the opening, it’s just an informational lesson about time zones without any jokes thrown in. For once, Tuva actually seems to know what’s going on, which means a lot less entertainment for us.

And unfortunately, a lot of the jokes this time around just seem a bit obvious. The idea of going back in time when crossing the dateline has certainly been done before. And the notion that cows are the victims of horrific torture and genocide at the hands of humans? That’s a pretty common vegan talking point. It’s even been done before in animation. The connection with the Russian Revolution aggressively brings to mind Animal Farm, but it’s odd that Lenin and Stalin are now cows instead of pigs, and I’m not sure the allusion is coherent enough to be enjoyable even for literature nerds. At least there are some clever cow puns. On an unrelated note, I’m not sure what’s going on with the thing about bodybuilders having near-invisible penises. Is that a stereotype I haven’t heard about before?

Also, I know that this show is satire. By nature, it’s going to poke fun at some serious topics. But somehow, darkly laughing at the monumental price of healthcare in the U.S. feels different than lightheartedly implying that Drexx has bulimia, going so far as to have him ask Tuva to physically help him purge. It just seems in poor taste to give one of our two main characters such a deadly disorder in a one-off joke that will likely never be followed up on. The same goes for Drexx’s dyslexia, which is played solely for laughs and treated as something shameful and embarrassing. I desperately want to learn more about Drexx and Tuva, but not if all we get are jokes that punch down at groups who are already struggling. Plus, what does this show have against the Amish? There are a solid two minutes of Amish-bashing that isn’t even a joke. It’s just Tuva calling them stupid over and over again, which isn’t particularly creative.

For all my complaints, though, a lot the brief flashes of news stories we get in this episode is actually hilarious. I particularly like the tiny little segment about frogs. The idea that humans are playing dead at work because it makes them less likely to give into soul-crushing despair—a technique they learned from Tibetan monks attempting to cope with Chinese occupation—is hilarious because of how real it is. Drexx’s little animation of the possible meanings of “battery porn” is good, silly fun. And the reframing of hospitals as trendy, ultra-exclusive nightclubs that everyone is, ah, dying to get into? That’s silly, but it also deftly points out some major flaws of the American healthcare system.

Like any episode of Alien News Desk, “Udder Madness” is sure to win some laughs, but this week’s news ship never quite makes it into orbit.



Bodie Shanis

Bodie is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. You can often find him in odd costumes, either because he's at an anime convention or performing in a musical. He's currently working on his first novel.

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