‘CollegeHumor: Dropout TV’ review
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
The jokesters over at CollegeHumor launched their own comedy streaming platform Dropout TV. I’m here to tell you if their exclusive content is worth the subscription fees.
To understand the context behind Dropout’s new series, See Plum Run, you must understand the deliriousness of late 2000s/early 2010s reality television.
Sure, you had the juggernauts like American Idol and Survivor ruling the airwaves, with more offshoots arriving every pilot season. However, niche, slice-of-life shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, and Dance Moms were popping up like teenage acne, giving us sneak peeks into the “real” lives of microcultures across North America.
Towards the end of this madness came TLC’s own offering—one that focused on a lower-class southeastern family as their six-year-old daughter navigated the world of toddler beauty pageants.
The show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, was a certified hit. It ran for four seasons and spawned a culture craze. Whether you watched the show or not, you can still find GIFs of its stars littered throughout the four corners of the internet. Critics claimed that it was exploitative of its child star. It was also dubbed “poverty porn,” referring to viewers who watched in awe at how families of lower socioeconomic status lived. The whole concept of Boo Boo was uncomfortable to begin with, which made it rife for parody.
Along came CollegeHumor’s Precious Plum in 2013, which ran for 13 episodes. The show followed roughly the same plotline as its source material: Mama (Josh Ruben) and Precious Plum (Elaine Carroll) navigate pageants and poverty in America. Response was just as divided as it was for Honey Boo Boo. One reviewer at Mashable dubbed the series “preciously vulgar,” while another reviewer at The Wrap called it a “bad apple” and awarded it a D letter grade. Internet views speak for themselves though, considering each Precious Plum episode has at least three million views on YouTube.
It makes sense then that Dropout TV would cash in their nostalgia cheque and revive Precious Plum with a sequel. Nostalgia is a bankable sensation—look no further than the mega-success of recent franchises like Jurassic World—but the drunken daze of peak reality television has worn off and the series See Plum Run comes across as tone deaf and just… not great.
Six years have passed in the Plum cinematic universe and Mama and Plum are taking on the culture of high society at Plum’s new private school. In the first episode, the pair clash against everyone from the school’s dean to their prep school neighbours before Mama decides to enroll Plum in the political race to become class president.
It’s a promising concept, sure. There are characteristics of a better show somewhere in the details; the acting is solid and the production values would make any other internet-made comedy jealous. However, where Plum flounders is its unwillingness to find new angles for these characters (particularly Mama) to play. They’re poor, they’re not smart, and they have no idea what the hell they’re doing. It’s the same plot we saw in the 13 episodes of its inaugural season.
At least stars Ruben and Carroll slide effortlessly back into the leads, oozing hapless charm. They’re so wonderfully incompetent that I wish there was more of a reason to root for them, but See Plum Run is more interested in setting up lewd sight gags and making poverty jokes to give them any real pathos.
Plum shines the most when it focuses on the two leads and allows them to riff off each other, without third parties looking in with pity or shame. Despite all of Mama and Plum’s respective flaws, there are whiffs of a meaningful mother-daughter relationship between them. It’s that kind of heart that could elevate See Plum Run from crude mediocrity into a show with something to say.