Plot: Set in the 1980s, in an 8-bit video game-esque version of the real world, game designers at GameaVision develop new games while basically being as unpleasant as possible.
Breakdown: The very first scene in this show is of one of the main characters humping his computer to somehow make it unfreeze.
And that was Code Monkeys, everybody.
Next time we’ll talk about…..
…..Oh fine. I’ll continue.
Let me procrastinate for a minute, however.
Code Monkeys was a show made by Adam de la Pena, who has also has his writing hand in such tasteful pies as The Man Show, Crank Yankers, Minoriteam and…Bratz: The Movie?….Okay that last one’s kinda weird, though there’s also a bunch of stereotypes in that movie too.
It was picked up by G4, the channel that had X-Play and things that weren’t X-Play.
I love how one of the blurbs by reviewers listed on the Code Monkeys Wiki page, Scott Jon Siegel of Joystiq, backhandedly shades G4 by saying “there was hope that G4 could deliver something actually watchable. [Code Monkeys] isn’t.”
Before anyone acts like I’m a prude who just wants to slam this show because of its crass humor – rude/dark comedy is not my forte by a long shot, but I can enjoy it on occasion when it’s done well. Problem is, so many entries in the ‘crude humor’ world are just ‘lol it’s funny because it’s gross or offensive.’ You want a good example of this? In the opening credits, we learn one of the characters is named Black Steve. He’s the only black guy. The joke is he’s a black guy named Steve so his name is Black Steve.
I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt a little since their boss is Steve Wozniak, so maybe they were calling him Black Steve to jokingly differentiate himself from Wozniak, but they don’t call Wozniak by his first name – they call him Woz – and Wozniak is supposedly only in this episode, yet his name sticks the entire series.
Sadly, I don’t think I can put this off anymore, and I honestly think this needs a step-by-step overview in order to truly give the scope of how bad this is, so let’s get started.
We get our theme song, which I wish I could appreciate because it’s a Jonathan Coulton song, but I can’t because it’s like they messed with the audio so I can barely hear the vocals over the instrumentals. Right at the title card, someone yells ‘I love you, whores!’ They don’t even want you to think for a second that they’re trying, do they?
Our cast of characters works in a game design company called GameaVision, and the entire show is drawn and animated like an 8-bit game, which, I’ll admit, is pretty cool and unique. They even use the video game display around the border to add some extra bits to scenes and jokes.
For instance, in the aforementioned computer humping scene, they have a progress bar at the top that says ‘Bone Level’ and slowly shows a bunch of bones as the character, Dave, reaches climax. Yup. Comedy gold. Also, they kinda edit it poorly here because, in order to, I guess, introduce the other character in the scene, Jerry, halfway through they change the name at the top to say Jerry, but the Bone Level meter is still going up, so it kinda makes it seem like he’s also about to climax.
Jerry points out the rotting donkey carcass in the room and asks Dave to get rid of it, but he says it’s useful. He points this out by pretending the donkey is a tauntaun, uses a lightsaber to cut it open and hops in to stay warm while he naps even though they’re in a warm office building and this is stupid.
Steve Wozniak comes in (he’s even voiced by Steve Wozniak, supposedly.) He owns this company for some reason and wants to know what games the boys are coming up with. Dave shows him his new game Hobo Killer where you just murder hobos. They’re not attacking the characters or anything – they’re just standing there and the character stabs them to death. How fun.
Woz calls them for a meeting, and we get a kinda clever shot where the boys walk down the street..or…hall or whatever this is, and it’s like a platformer, but there’s more inconsistency in the little display up top. Back in the office, the health meter was depicted as being a bunch of hearts. Out here, it’s a Megaman-esque group of tiny bars. It doesn’t affect anything, I just thought it was interesting…
We meet Black Steve, who is brandishing a gun, which I guess is okay considering they live in a video game world. But we’ll later learn he’s just a gun-toting trigger-happy jerk who is racist against white people. Woz supposedly gave the gun to him for game inspiration.
Black Steve tells us about his new game idea called Cracker Barrel where you literally shoot crackers (Ya know….white people) in a barrel. Also, the follow up joke is that Black Steve isn’t even a programmer – he’s the accountant. Also, that isn’t really a joke so much as them wanting to make the Cracker Barrel joke so they had to hide the fact that he wasn’t a programmer from us long enough to say that.
Wait, if he’s the accountant, why did Woz give him a gun for game inspiration?
We next meet Todd – Hmm, let’s see. A show about game programmers made in the mid-2000s that is gunning for every stereotype imaginable. Could Todd possibly be a gamer stereotype?
Would you look at that? He’s a gigantic geek, very overweight, sniffs a lot, loves food, is crazy into medieval/DnD stuff (and wears a viking helmet for some reason) to the point where he changes his speech patterns, calls his office his lair and acts like he has no solid grasp on reality, has garbage all over his office, still lives with his mom and apparently is so close with her they waste no time strongly implying that they’re either in an incestuous relationship or are just borderline.
Here’s how subtle it is;
Todd: “Mother and I share many passions. One of which happens to be OUR passion for nachos. The second is MY passion for her.”
They accompany this with a little thing in the corner that says ‘Creepy Points’ with a number going up, which is kinda cute, but you couple that with them pointing out in dialogue that it’s creepy and us already knowing that it’s creepy and, again, you’re being way too blatant with the ‘jokes’ to the point where it’s almost unfunny.
Next up on the ‘let’s meet the entire cast’ docket is Mary – who is currently in the women’s steam room. Dave comes in and promptly starts snapping pictures – even sneaking underneath her to look up her towel.
At this point, I should mention another problem crude humor shows and movies almost always have – unlikable characters. In shows and movies that function entirely on gross-out and offensive humor, they almost have to make their characters unlikable assholes in order for them to keep making these jokes. And, as a result, you very, very quickly stop giving half a shit about what happens to any of them.
It’s like in horror movies where they tend to make all of the characters dumb annoying self-absorbed teenagers. The movie stops being scary because you start rooting for the killer to come and spare you the torment of watching them on screen any longer.
Likewise, in these crude humor shows and movies, I don’t care what happens to these assholes one way or another, so why would I care to keep watching? The only nice-ish people are treated like crap too, which is another theme in those shows and movies, so the entire experience is just unpleasant. The only way that could work is if the humor is just so goshdarn clever and hilarious that it’d be worth sitting through their crap to get to the jokes, but it’s not.
Anyhoo, Mary is the only female programmer at the company, so obviously she’s an outspoken feminist who is working on a game where she teaches girls about their periods while also making it action-packed enough to market to boys. It’s called Red Rhonda….
Predictably, Dave makes a bunch of sex jokes at her, including implying that he wants to have anal sex with her. In case you’re wondering why Dave hasn’t been fired 100x over by now, Woz basically lets him do whatever he wants.
Speaking of that, they all reach the meeting room where Dave is seen peeing in a urinal. Woz told him he could install one right in the meeting area so he wouldn’t have to let his microwave burrito get cold, but the urinal has no pipes so the urine ends up all over the floor.
Woz gives his big announcement – he’s selling the company and he wants Dave to butter up potential buyers. Why he’s giving this responsibility to such a massive idiotic jackwad, I don’t know.
And, of course, it’s very plainly obvious that Dave intends on sabotaging these meetings. We can get that from his attitude instantly turning around and his sneaky voice, but, of course, the little display in the corner has to have an insincerity meter going up just to really drive it home.
The first buyers are from Family Works – a gaming company dedicated to proving that games can serve a moral purpose. They’re dressed like complete dorks and talk like complete dorks with a dorky company, so Dave takes him to our next character introduction – Clarence.
Clarence is gay and you can pretty much predict how his character talks and acts from there just on how they’ve treated every other character.
Clarence is in some sort of weird party room with pink walls, a giant Wham poster and a disco ball. He’s wearing nothing but a speedo, and there are two very stereotypically gay men hanging out in the hot tub. The Family Works people are disgusted and leave, and the scene ends with Clarence diving into the hot tub to give blowjobs to the other two guys.
…Oh Clarence does the music for the games, in case you were wondering. He has a microphone in this room, so it’s fine.
Dave brings some investors from Canada to Todd’s office, and they pretty much give up on staying on the stereotypical gamer thing with him because what he does next just makes no sense for anyone.
He strips naked and starts doing a word association game with the guys. Dave leaves and locks them in the room, saying they’ll be in there for several hours, which seems unnecessary. Meanwhile, Todd keeps getting way too close to them and even grabs them a couple times.
What even was that? I honestly can’t make sense of what they were trying to do there. Todd is definitely out of touch with reality, but even in his mind he shouldn’t be able to make sense of what he’s doing.
The next scene nearly made me turn off the episode. It’s not just not funny – it’s just literal potty humor, par for the course – it’s the fact that they basically give you a literal countdown timer to the joke.
Here’s the setup. Clearly, there’s a turd in the microwave. It’s massive. It’s practically the first thing you notice when the scene starts. There’s a timer at the top of the screen saying the microwave will be done in one minute. Gee, I wonder if the microwave explodes with poo-poo in one minute. Oh look, Dave’s even pointing out that there’s a turd in the microwave 30 seconds before the timer is up. Uh-oh, Woz is stepping right next to the microwave as the timer winds down.
Now, to their credit, the timer doesn’t reach zero before the microwave blows up and coats everyone with poop, there was about 17 seconds left, so there’s the slightest bit of surprise there….At least there would’ve been if they didn’t also manage to screw that up by including warning beeps right before the microwave explodes. So even if you weren’t watching the countdown or taking note of the very obvious clues, the show still alerts you to the impending punchline. It’s almost like they’re trying extra hard to make sure you don’t laugh.
Why was the warning even going off at 22 seconds anyway? Usually, if a microwave has a ‘nearing end of cook time’ warning beep, it will be three to five seconds before the timer is up – not 22 – that’s such a random number.
(I know I should note that the microwave as a whole wouldn’t blow up because of poop, but I thought I’d give them that much leeway at least.)
As a cherry on this literal shit sundae, the title at the bottom of the screen that usually says ‘Code Monkeys’ changes to ‘Gross Me Out’ after this. Yes. We get it.
I can try to make this scene work better. Have the microwave running, but don’t clearly show what’s in there. They discussed Dave liking microwave burritos, so we can just think he’s microwaving one. Have the scene go about normally, let Dave subtly situate the buyers in front of the microwave then BOOM. Microwave blows up, poop everywhere and Dave just non-chalantly explains that he regularly microwaves turds or something.
It’s not a great fix of that scene, but it’s at least trying.
Anyway, Woz isn’t even mad about it because he’s an idiot.
After a transition that tells us to have a ‘Happy Turdsday’ Woz explains that his desire to sell the company is based on his love of computers, not games. He wants to make computers, even though Dave says it’s a passing fad, which is kinda dumb because computers and games go hand in hand.
Since Dave scared off all of the other potential buyers, Woz has no choice but to go for his only option – Bellecovision, which I think is supposed to be a reference to ColecoVision? Bellecovision is an ridiculously boring game company that drives their employees insane, which is the polar opposite of GameaVision, where they basically let their employees do nearly anything they want. Dave is really against that option, but it’s either them or some dude named Larrity.
Woz goes to the other employees to get their say in the matter since he doesn’t want to sell it to either of them without their blessing, which is odd because it seemed like he was fine selling it to those other buyers without asking them about it.
The vote is split with half wanting to sell to Bellecovision and the other voting for Larrity. Jerry is the deciding vote, but he doesn’t want to vote because he’s torn.
When the commercial break comes, they put a little ‘Pause’ note on screen, which I legitimately thought was clever and a little funny. But then they kinda ruin it because, instead of just immediately picking up where they left off once the pause button is taken off, where Jerry is already being asked whether he will choose Larrity or Bellecovision, they have Mary immediately ask if Jerry will choose Dave or her, and I just don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. She voted for Bellecovision while Dave chose Larrity, and I guess that’s it, but she doesn’t even know Larrity – none of them do – and I can’t see why she’d want to gun for a game company that is seen as super boring, unless she’s also meant to be super boring.
Black Steve nearly murders his coworkers for no reason, and then Jerry chooses Larrity.
The majority wins, and the company is sold to Mr. Larrity.
Our first interaction with Mr. Larrity is in the men’s bathroom where Dave is humping a condom machine to get free condoms….
Larrity is an old rich white guy from Texas and, again, you can pretty much gauge how his character is portrayed from that information alone.
He’s brought his son, Dean, along with him, and Dean is just a muscular idiot.
Larrity brings Jerry and Dave along to talk about the new changes he’s going to be making to the company. First, he’s canceling all holidays, including Christmas and…”Jew Christmas.” Again, that’s not clever at all. It’s just putting an offensive slant on it.
Larrity claims he doesn’t know anything about video games, which is a mighty weird statement to make considering he lives in a video game and is currently completing a platformer as he walks down the hall (or street? It’s very difficult to know what these platformer corridors are. They look like streets, but they’re inside the building?)
Clarence dances in wearing a bright blue and pink jumpsuit, singing out that he’s gay – and surprise of all surprises, Larrity wants to fire him immediately.
Next, Larrity demolishes the women’s bathroom to make more space for the men’s room so he can pace back and forth like a tiger before he takes a dump (I’m not even really paraphrasing.) Mary asks what the women are supposed to use, but Larrity just says it’s not his problem.
Larrity comes into Black Steve’s office and tells him he’ll be sharing an office. Before he even finishes his sentence, Black Steve shoots him because he doesn’t want to share an office. Larrity’s okay, though, because he’s wearing a flak jacket. He’s so impressed by Black Steve’s shot, however, that he agrees to let him have his own office, at least until the ‘rematch.’
They have a group meeting where Mary is immediately stifled because Larrity only cares about what the male employees are doing. The only reason she spoke first was because he said he wanted to hear what the ‘ladies’ had for him, but then he stopped her and explained that he was using ‘ladies’ as a derogatory term for the men.
Todd starts a presentation, and we get this.
Todd: “I know what you’re all thinking. ‘Todd! How can you top yourself after your brilliant game Space Blasters?’”
Mary: “Wow, Todd is such a douche.”
….Thank….You…Mary. I never would’ve gotten that from his overall behavior and the fact that, when he was introduced, his character intro screen was this:
The line is so awkwardly placed, too. Maybe it doesn’t come across like that in text, but it’s just weird that she chose right then to say that. She either should have said that after he was done with his presentation or after his first line, which was “Well, since I’m the best, I’ll go first.” It’s like she interrupted him just to call him a douche.
Todd’s game idea is Space Blasters II, which is the same game as the first one with two ships. Everyone loves it….I think? I honestly can’t tell if they’re being sarcastic or genuine.
Dave is up next with his game, Nazi Sniper, where you shoot Nazis. Larrity initially likes the idea, but then is less than enthused when he realizes the Nazis are the bad guys in this game. Get it? Because he’s a Nazi sympathizer.
Larrity introduces the new game tester for the company, his “son” Benny. The company, not him, “illegally adopted” him from Korea. And, as with everyone else, he’s basically what you’d expect a racist depiction of a ten year old Korean boy to be. The main twist being that he’s very, very hyper because Larrity has been loading him up with Pixy Stix and sugar, to keep him awake longer so he can work non-stop, and cigarettes to stunt his growth. I’m not exactly certain why they need to stunt his growth, but here we are.
Larrity finishes off the meeting by appointing Dean as head of development.
Todd and Black Steve meet later to plan the assassination of Larrity because everyone’s now regretting voting for him to buy the company. Yeah, killing him. That’s the logical progression of events….though I suppose he already tried to kill him once, so why not aim for that ‘pre-meditated’ label?
In order to get Black Steve to agree, he has to hand over cash, his van and his prized sword, Excalibur. When he hands the sword over, Todd dubs Black Steve the Black Knight. He threatens to kill him if that’s a racist moniker…which…yeah, of course it is. That’s a given. Why are you okay with everyone calling you Black Steve but you get all murder-y when you’re given the title of Black Knight?
Black Steve lays in wait in the vending machine and opens fire on him, but Larrity reveals that he’s outfitted all of the vending machines with bulletproof glass and metal, so it didn’t work.
Dave tries to convince Woz, who is already the founder and CEO of a company that looks exactly like Apple, just with two bites taken out of the logo instead of one, but it doesn’t work. Woz doesn’t like the changes he’s learning of either, but he has no power there anymore and doesn’t want to return to the gaming world. Instead, he tells Dave that it’s his time to shine and that he should lead the charge to make changes at the company if he’s so bothered by them. That’s actually very reasonable…or at least it would be if he were talking to anyone other than Dave, who has shown to be nothing but lazy and abhorrently irresponsible and doesn’t deserve his time to shine.
Todd and Black Steve try another assassination attempt by hiding Black Steve in a giant cake (and he’s insulted that the cake is vanilla) but it fails and he’s gruesomely murdered by a falling piano trap Larrity had set up in his office…(Remember, though, this is a video game world, so it doesn’t stick. He’s dead for a lot longer than Jerry was earlier (he died in the first platformer scene) though, and we never see him respawn.)
The rest of the employees are filling out applications at Bellecovision when Dave comes in with an inspirational speech to bring everyone back to GameaVision, which works quite easily.
Back in GameaVision, Larrity is repeatedly branding Todd like a cow, and he thanks Black Steve for ‘letting him in on his secret’…..which…I guess means he was warning Larrity of the assassination attempts for some reason. Doesn’t make any sense because Black Steve is racist against white people and would logically be super against a racist white guy, but I guess they bonded over guns? If Black Steve was in cahoots with Larrity…why did Larrity kill him with the piano? Shouldn’t that have broken their bond over firearms, or is killing each other a bonding thing between them too?
And…uh….that’s it. They take a group photo with all of the employees, and I guess everything’s all better…suddenly….with no real resolution.
We end on a scene where Dave explains that he pooped in the brownie bowl and wiped his ass with every brownie. Lo and behold, everyone’s behind him in shock having eaten the poop brownies because they’re all have no sense of smell or taste, apparently.
I actually had high hopes for this at first because the aesthetic made it seem promising, and the premise seemed like something I’d definitely get into, but Code Monkeys is one of the most unfunny things I’ve seen in a long time.
The only thing that’s even slightly humorous about it is some of the changes they make to the video game display. Some of them. Most of them are quite boring, and several of them just try stacking onto a joke we’re either watching or listening to, so it’s pounded into your head so much that it goes from simply not being funny to being annoying.
So many jokes act like you’re too stupid to understand them, even when they’re the most basic ‘jokes’ in existence. Every few minutes, they’re holding your hand through a joke. It’s like a stoner comedy version of Dora the Explorer if Dora thought you were brain dead.
If I ended this review with “And that’s why Code Monkeys is the best cartoon ever made.” I’m certain you’d be able to tell from everything else that I was being sarcastic. Now imagine that I added a /Sarcasm to it. A bit much for this situation since the sarcasm is very apparent – makes it less funny. Now imagine that I made a gif of a video game display where it said ‘Sarcasm’ with a meter going up and added that to it. That’s be way too blatant and just not funny at all anymore, wouldn’t it?
That is how a third of the jokes in this episode work, with everything else just being stupid ‘we can’t think of jokes so here’s something offensive’ humor.
Crude humor/dark comedy is really, really, really hard to do right. And when it’s done wrong, it fails about 100x as hard as any other comedy because now it’s not just not funny, it’s unpleasant.
You can’t confuse dark or crude comedy with just being dumb. It’s the adult equivalent of waving keys in front of a baby’s face. ‘Hurr hurr, it’s funny because it’s racist or sexist or gross. Or hey, sex is funny. Let’s just mention sex or show a character humping things, that’ll get a laugh.’
The least they could’ve done through this whole thing was give us a resolution to the conflict, but the episode just kinda ends. Nothing’s really solved. Dave did get the other employees back, but they didn’t even show them leaving until after Dave had his final conversation with Woz…which is the same scene Dave gets them back. When they come back to the GameaVision offices, they don’t talk to Larrity or do anything. Larrity just brands Todd over and over and kinda bonds with Black Steve.
Is he going to stop being a jackass now? Is he going to reverse all the changes he made? Is he still going to fire Clarence? Who knows? But they’re together now, and that’s all that matters – even though it’s very clear that they all hate each other and aren’t really friends.
I have to give credit where credit is due, however, because this does work pretty well as an introductory episode. Most of the characters are given full introductions (except Clare, the receptionist, who, according to the Wiki, is basically the other female stereotype in that she’s an airheaded tramp. Also like four other people in the group photo that I don’t even remember seeing weren’t introduced either, but I don’t think they’re all that vital since they’re not listed on the main character page.) and the setup is laid out for us very clearly.
I was kinda surprised to learn that Dave is being treated as the main character because, in my opinion, he’s the least likable character in the whole cast besides Larrity. I really thought Jerry would’ve been the focal character given he’s the most likable and reasonable, but nope. He’s basically the deuteragonist.
Other than that, though, I could live my whole life never thinking about this show again and it would be all the better for it.
Final Notes: Code Monkeys did find an audience and was reportedly fairly successful when it aired back in 2007, but G4 still canceled it after being on the air for two seasons/one year for some reason.
In 2017, Adam de la Pena wrote a tweet saying “And then there’s this….gameavision.com” which was supposedly hinting at a revival, but that obviously never happened. Just out of curiosity, I visited the website to see if there was any other information, and all the website says is ‘© 2020 gameavision.com.’ It’s interesting because they had to have recently updated the page to say 2020, but there’s still no information whatsoever on what they might be planning, if anything.
Adam de la Pena also doesn’t seem to be working right now. His last entry on IMDB was writing for a Netflix talk show hosted by Chelsea Handler in 2016-2017 titled ‘Chelsea’ and…uh…the reviews were not good.
It seems like someone at Netflix or something tried to seed the reviews and ratings because half of the reviews are perfect scores and singing the show’s praises so much you’d think it cured cancer while the other half are giving two to one stars and saying it’s a horrible pile of garbage. And guess what? Most of the positive reviews are very clearly by bots or people who were paid off, because the reviews for that show were literally their only reviews and they had no actual profile.
From what I saw of the reaction to the show on other websites, it seems the negative reviews were the most accurate. (Fun fact: Chelsea is the only show made by Netflix to have episodes removed from the platform. They removed 66 out of 90 episodes, supposedly to help people find the newest episodes, but they have other talk shows on the service that they didn’t do this to, so it’s just really odd.)
Of course, I had to look at the IMDB for Code Monkeys too, and it has a respectable score of 7/10. However, nearly all of the actual reviews give it basically perfect scores and said things like ‘Ingenious’ ‘Hilarious’ ‘Masterpiece’ ‘Brilliant’ and only two reviews were bad to moderate, which got labeled as unhelpful.
Sure seems familiar but in an opposite extreme. I wonder if many of the people giving this series rave reviews only have Code Monkeys as their lone review, as if they only signed up to give that positive review. Being fair, several of the positive reviews also seem to be genuine, but I still feel like this was another case of rating seeding.
I’m not accusing De La Pena of having anything to do with this, if it is really a case of buying ratings and reviews, but it’s just a weird coincidence. Maybe I need to take off my tinfoil hat.
I will fully admit that maybe the series gets funnier over time – maybe there’s something good buried deep in the literal shit that I’m not seeing – but you’d never convince me this series is anything close to a brilliant hilarious masterpiece.
I wanted this series to be a brilliant hilarious masterpiece – maybe a lost gem of sorts – but it’s not. It’s just terrible. It’s a unique concept that could’ve been really great but ended up being an exploding turd in a microwave.
Like always, if you enjoy the show, that’s cool, don’t let me stop you from enjoying it, but I am moving on.
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