This was the first DVD that a company had sent me to review for them on my previous writing life [Edited - Richard], and having not been too taken with South Park I thought I was set for a laughless series of the British version. I was wrong.
The show is a cartoon animation, like a cross between an online Flash animation and old Spectrum graphics, and features the life of Ritchie, Hooks and Rabbit, three friends living together ripping apart society in their own insane way.
Ritchie is the typical angry kid, Rabbit is the intelligent one with a small set of morals and Hooks could probably actually go and get a life if it wasn't for living with this lot. Combining their views brings for the twisted, satirical comedy that is Empire Square.
The writing is what carries this off, as you soon forget the cool gimmick of the computer animation and get caught up in the clever setups and deliveries. The situations the characters get into are bizzare, but often quite serious and real topics, and it's how the writers handle the direction of each of the little stories. It's the little sidetracks and side comments that really get you laughing, and despite the moments of sitting with a grimace, there's still a smile on your face and a giggle.
Brittle bone boy being exploited by the filming crew, home breast implants for prostitutes on crack, Fathers for Justice, Nigerian email scams, the sick mortician, it's all there, and despite there being some strong and quite close to the bone topics, each is pulled off with tons of humour and attacked at an unusual direction.
You've got to ask why this wasn't advertised better. On the odd occassion when I saw the trailers on Channel 4 I really did get the wrong impression of this show, you need to forget those and go watch it.
The DVD has tons of little short messages from each of the characters, more hilarity, reality and sharp insights. It's like a sick version of those Aardman animal shorts. There's also a character guide with some sketches of the various character incarnations, the pilot episode, and one of the episodes, "Selling Babies" shown in storyboard format. Oh, and don't forget the all too short music video "Stupid Ho"...
Sick, insulting and degrading, but it's funny, and a satirical slap in the face for the way we live and value our lives. Usually with a nice little morale to tie it all up, just not always the one you would expect. I loved it, laughed through it, and was genuinely upset when the DVD whirred and the last episode ended.
"Empire Sq differs from your average animation series in that the audience can influence the show. It is the first interactive animation series in the world. Viewers are invited to contribute their own buildings to Empire Square created through the show’s website. The best buildings will be included in future story lines. Empire Sq is set to be the first multi platform British television series. It is currently available through the web. The future plan is for Empire Sq to be available for download on 3G mobile phones."
Now you can see where the style move comes from for the programme. So get over to the site and start building the second series!
Check out Empire Square at the Channel 4 site, and find it on