My favorite Japanese comedy programs are so similar to Saturday Night Live that sometimes I forget how bizarre the Japanese sense of humor can get. I was quickly reminded by The Fuccons, one of the most outlandish TV series ever seen on either side of the Pacific. <a href="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2005-12/Fuccons%20cover.jpg" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2005-12/t-Fuccons%20cover.jpg" alt="Mikey, James, and Barbara want to meet you. And possibly eat your brain." align="right" hspace="5" vspace="3" width="200" height="282"></a>Like many people, I find department store mannequins with their glazed expressions and artificially cheery dispositions to be vaguely unnerving. That’s not a knock on Andrew McCarthy. Heck, that Starship song is catchy enough to make anyone want to get his or her groove on. However, The Fuccons stars nothing but mannequins, and none of them transform into Kim Cattrall. The show is quite literally like watching an evolving department store display, as there is almost no movement. The “characters” are simply posed differently from one shot to the next. This makes the show the visual equivalent of watching paint dry, only made considerably more annoying by mind-numbingly repetitive dialogue and creepy, shrill giggling. It’s not unlike those 70s Hanna Barbera cartoons in which one of the characters would say something dreadfully unfunny and then everyone would burst into manic laughter. Sometimes The Fuccons doesn’t even bother with the non-joke. I don’t know if writers were stoned out of their minds, but the viewer would have to be to get much enjoyment out of this. The lead stiffs are the Fuccon family: father James, mother Barbara, and perhaps ten-year-old son Mikey. They have recently moved to Japan, and like most mannequins, are Caucasian. Each two-minute episode shows the Fuccons exploring some mundane aspect of everyday life such as school, cousins, grocery shopping, trying new foods, ghosts, tutors, grandparents, and dating. “Mikey and Milk” reminds me of those old Life cereal commercials in which a bunch of wary kids would get a little guy named Mikey to try the cereal first (“Mikey likes it!”). Only in this case the parents pretend they’ve been kidnapped and won’t be freed unless Mikey drinks his milk. <a href="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2005-12/Fuccons%20gallery_mikey2.jpg" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2005-12/t-Fuccons%20gallery_mikey2.jpg" alt="Yes, Andrew, I am a tall blonde" align="left" hspace="5" vspace="3" width="159" height="120"></a>Some episodes get points for weirdness, such as the episode where Mikey’s pushy cousin Laura masquerades as a ghost and steals his hair (!). However, only “The Lady Tutor” is actually amusing enough to qualify as entertainment. When Mikey’s young tutor Tracy turns out to be a sultry knockout, Barbara ponders, “Is it really necessary to flaunt sexuality like that? …I’m worried.” James lasciviously responds, “It’s the kind of worry that could keep me up ALL night.” They imagine Tracy conducting a steamy seduction in Mikey’s room, but when they burst in they find her teaching origami. Tracy reports, “Mikey seems to be very good at EVERYTHING, and I’m not just talking about math.” James chips in that he’s also good at EVERYTHING, and he isn’t just talking about math either. One can hardly fault the cast for their plastic performances, but even so this isn’t a very interesting bunch. Both the Japanese and English voice actors do the best job possible with the dire material. Eternally optimistic and naïve, the SpongeBob-like Mikey is slightly endearing and usually ends up the butt of the joke. James and Barbara are very superficial and manipulative toward poor Mikey, and the former is a bit of a pervert. Foul-tempered, uppity Laura is the only character that really stands out. She lives to torment Mikey, but may be masking gentler emotions. The kids, especially Mikey, are all sort of cute in their own inanimate way. However James and Barbara’s faces are fixed in wildly grotesque smiles, as if they’d just drunk a quart of Valium. <a href="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2005-12/Fuccons%20gallery_james.jpg" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2005-12/t-Fuccons%20gallery_james.jpg" alt="Bondage makes a happy home" align="right" hspace="5" vspace="3" width="158" height="119"></a>It’s unfortunate the writers went for crazy instead of funny, because the concept does have the makings of a good comedy. Call it obvious, but I think a lot of fun could be had subjecting the mannequins to various forms of physical punishment Mr. Bill style: boil them in a hot spring, slam them in subway doors, attack them with monkeys, etc. I’d like to see more location shooting to take advantage of the Japanese setting. It would be fun to see the family singing karaoke, or eating at a sushi bar, or maybe have the sleazy James get a “massage” at a soapland. Mostly though, the inane dialogue is in need of a drastic rewrite. The preview disc unfortunately contained no special features. Perhaps they wanted to preserve the staff’s anonymity for fear of reprisals. If you just say no to drugs you can safely pass on The Fuccons. No sober person could possibly be bored enough to sit through this groaningly unamusing pabulum. Readers desperate for a comedy about a stiff may want to check out Mr. McCarthy’s other magnum opus: Weekend at Bernie’s. No, he’s not the stiff, but it’s an honest mistake.