Knowing that Clone High’s Gandhi is a parody of an over-eager party boy doesn’t make him much less exhausting than if he were the real thing. We’ve seen this guy a thousand times before Clone High and a thousand times since, whether it’s at the fringes of a Judd Apatow franchise or high-fiving Ted Mosby for achieving horrifying things with some cah-razy lady. They’re shock jocks that dare to walk amongst us with an arsenal of asinine sound effects and catchphrases. So yes, Gandhi’s personality is amplified because being a spoof demands it, but oh man, does that personality start to grate after a while. Really, the main reason why Clone High’s Gandhi can get away with it for so long is Michael McDonald’s performance. McDonald rips into the bro-down portions of Gandhi’s personality with palpable relish, but he can also turn it on a dime so that the Gandhi who’s creating a one-man band out of classroom supplies one minute is welling up with self-righteous tears in the next. That scene where Gandhi finds out he has A.D.D. (and ADHD) is a standout for McDonald as he makes that switch from manic to solemn, even as Butlertron keeps trying to tell him that he’s not going to die, it’s a very common thing, this reaction seems like a bit much, and so on, and on, and on...
So yes, McDonald’s hyperactive Gandhi is a perfect foil for Will Forte’s hapless Abe, but that’s the thing—he’s a perfect foil. “A.D.D.: The Last D Is For Disorder” leans into Gandhi’s outsized personality by turning his tics up to eleven, the better to show his latent attention deficit disorders. But hinging an episode on just Gandhi is tricky business because, well, he’s exhausting.
Maybe this is why Gandhi’s not the only one with a crippling short attention span in “A.D.D.: The Last D Is For Disorder.” The episode is ostensibly focusing on Gandhi, but it also feels like it realized that would be hard, since it ends up scattering in several wildly different directions. While Gandhi deals with the school ostracizing him for his capital D Disease, our Joan of Arc starts to hear voices. She assumes she’s following in her genetic predecessor’s footsteps—which is pretty sound logic in the face of this cartoon’s reality—and commits herself completely to spreading the good word of the Lord. This is one of those rare times with Joan’s story doesn’t have her in her usual pining spot (i.e. three steps behind Abe), so it’s a shame she’s relegated to a barely-there C plot. Both Nicole Sullivan and the eye-twitching animation are brilliant as Joan unravels. She howls at her unenlightened peers with the true zeal of the righteous, so convinced that she’s finally become special—and then her metal retainer pops out, vibrating with the signal from a nearby radio station. It’s such a perfectly mundane, anti-climactic moment. Still, I almost wanted another thinking dock scene to sum up her Feelings, not just because I love the thinking docks, but because a Joan version of the speech Abe gave could have displayed the best of her—simmering rage, exasperation, doubt, and the self-righteousness only a teenager who thinks she’s above it all can have. Instead, she scatters away from the stage in humiliation, and that’s that.
Meanwhile, Scudworth gets his best plotline yet. I said earlier that Scudworth works best as an accent to stories, and I stand by that, but his story in this episode is the perfect use of his particular brand of chaos. Frustrated by how much the students prefer Butlertron to him, Scudworth decides that Butlertron’s sweater vest is the key to earning the clones’ trust. Watching him try to relate to JFK’s sudden outpouring of emotion is just a treat. Co-creator Phil Lord nails Scudworth’s exasperation with emotions, letting it build to a fever pitch until he finally can’t stand it anymore and sends JFK careening down one of his thousand and one trapdoors.
“A.D.D.: The Last D Is For Disorder” is not Clone High’s strongest episode. There’s just too much going on, between Gandhi’s Disease, Abe trying to impress Cleo, JFK trying to get over Cleo, Joan hearing voices, Scudworth’s vest, and Tom Green. But when Clone High tries to do too much at once, there are inevitably several moments that make the entire thing worth it. Joan’s retainer popping out is one of them, as is Scudworth yelping in horror about the water leaking out of JFK’s face. The standout moment in this episode, though, is “Don’t Tell Paul Revere.”
Equal parts Bye Bye Birdie! and amorphous beat poetry, “Don’t Tell Paul Revere” is an extraordinarily silly musical break. You think you’ve got the gist of it after about thirty seconds, with all the hip people in black turtlenecks snapping and whispering, “don’t tell Paul Revere!” But this is Clone High, so of course there is a living, breathing Paul Revere (Zac Braff) ready to take that challenge, and so he gallops by and throws his head back to bellow, “TOO LATE!” The timing is just perfect, from Revere’s entrance to the beat after the song’s over, when the artsy singers’ chests heave up and down in exhaustion after such a strenuous dance number. Like the best of Clone High, it’s absurd, sneaky in its subversion, and somehow, still affectionate.
- Programming note: Due to a technical snafu, I failed to publish both reviews at once yesterday, as planned. The rest of the reviews will run in pairs from here on out.
- High School Commiseration Corner: I tried out for all the school musicals—including Bye Bye Birdie!—and would always get past the singing stage only to fall flat on my face in the acting challenges. In my defense, I was always called back to play the moms. (I blame the mushroom haircut—for so, so much.)
- Hey, it’s 2002!: Tom Green’s cautionary tale cameo might have read better in 2002. Or I just never got Tom Green. Or – plastic bag! Plastic bag!
- As already mentioned, Nicole Sullivan crushed it, but this episode also marks her debut as poor, radioactive Marie Curie. Also, Donald Faison as Joan’s Wise Blind Black Foster Father Toots is the best.
- Cleo: “I’m hosting an open-mouthed kissing booth.” / Joan: “Oh, for herpes awareness?”
- “Some principals do feel loneliness. We’re not the invincible gods teen magazines would have you believe.”