Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pilot Review: Immortalized

Immortalized (Thursdays at 10:00 on AMC; Premieres February 14)

I honestly can't even explain how silly Immortalized is. One of the taglines from the opening monologue by host Zach Selwyn, whose incredible achievements include the modern classics Punkin Chunkin and the recently debuted Guinness World Records Gone Wild, is, "Get ready to watch art and animals collide." And it's delivered with a straight face while a string quartet crescendos in the background. Did no one tell the creators that they were making a comedy? Or is this actually supposed to be taken seriously?

Immortalized is a truly stupid re-staging of Iron Chef, but instead of cooking animals, the contestants stuff and mount them. Yes, really. This is a show, and it's on the air. We did it to ourselves, America. We proved with such crap as Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Ridiculousness, Big Rich Atlanta and a thousand other pointless, terrible shows that we would watch anything. And AMC has truly scraped the bottom of the barrel to bring us Immortalized, a competition series based around the "art" of taxidermy. Featuring taxidermy in a reality television series isn't even an entirely new idea; there's already a bad show about taxidermists on the History channel called Mounted in Alaska. This series just adds the twist of it being a taxidermy competition, stealing its entire format from Iron Chef: there are four master taxidermists, and someone comes in to challenge one master (called an "Immortalizer") to stuff an animal and present it to the most confusing panel of judges ever: the former taxidermist for the Smithsonian, a current taxidermy artist (and a woman, at that), and comedian Brian Posehn. One of these things is not like the other.

Anyway, there is just so much stupidity happening here that it's hard to pin it all down. To start with, the "Immortalizer" enters while "Dies Irae" (yes, from Mozart's Requiem) plays above them. Then they are given the theme: Armageddon. The way this theme is interpreted is as dumb as the theme itself. Page, the "Immortalizer" (I laugh to myself every time I type that), mounts a cat with a bird in its mouth... because it's the "end of the world" for that bird. You can't argue with that; the man's a genius. He even finds a way to work in the Bible when he presents his piece to the judges: "I'm sure your first thought was Biblical: Revelations, the end of mankind. But we're not dealing with men. We're dealing with wildlife." Oy.

The challenger, CJ, makes a bunch of animals jumping off a smoking rock, with a bunch of fireballs painted on the base. It's overdone and really, really stupid. Seriously? It's a bunch of animals jumping; just because you had to tell us that the rock they're standing on is about to explode doesn't make the damn thing apocalyptic... but at least he stays away from scripture.

Now, I've been known to enjoy a redneck reality show every once in a while. Despite my complete aversion to guns, Top Shot was one of my favorite competition shows. I've watched Mounted in Alaska, Billy the Exterminator, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and a slew of other podunk, brainless series when nothing better is on. But Immortalized just takes it to another level of crap. It has all the makings of those cheesy, annoying, mind-numbing Southern-fried reality shows, but it is taken way too seriously. The host is a sketch comic, but he plays everything straight. The music and idea are stolen from Iron Chef, but without the campy wink of The Chairman. I mean, how do you take a show about making a dead, skinned animal look most beautiful seriously? Look at that poster up there. Consider the fact that the soundtrack contains the most fire-and-brimstone section of Mozart's requiem. Note that they call the competitors freaking Immortalizers. And that the show is premiering on Valentine's Day. How can you have all of these elements of camp, but your show comes off straight as an arrow? It kind of feels like AMC tried everything they could in post-production to make Immortalized a silly, campy, fun half hour, but the people on set didn't get the memo and played the whole thing with deadly seriousness. I just don't get it. But more importantly, I don't like it.

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